Migration, language diversity and
education policy: A contextualized analysis
of inequality, risk and state effects

by James Collins (University at Albany/SUNY)

Working Papers WP 14-09
July 2014
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

No Child Left Behind refers to federal education legislation and implementation programs intended to reconcile the goals of insuring equality while promoting competition in public education in the United States. Immigrant students whose primary languages are other than English are included in the mandate of NCLB, categorized as English Language Learners (ELLs), a category of ‘at-risk’ students. Drawing on case studies of immigrant students in upstate New York, as well as surveys of school district compliance with ESL/Bilingual education requirements, the analysis explores how NCLB and its implementation simultaneously obscure economic differences and polarize ethnolinguistic identities at the school, state, and federal levels. Drawing from ethnographic as well as sociolinguistic data, this study uses the concept of state effects to explore the articulation and re-articulation of ethnoracial and linguistic diversity along axes of poverty and relative privilege. It argues that NCLB as enacted across diverse scales constructs social subjects in relation to differences that are obscured or emphasized and produces isolated individual subjects as well as new collective identities.         

James Collins is a Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at the University at Albany/State University of New York. He has studied issues of language diversity, social inequality, and the politics of language in the United States, Belgium, and South Africa.