California Could Paint a Clearer Picture of English Learner Success if New Bill Passes

California may soon have a better understanding of how students at different stages of learning English are doing in school.

A bill currently in the Legislature, Assembly Bill 1868, would require the California Department of Education to release standardized test scores in English, math, and science for subgroups of English learners. , including long-term English learners, those at risk of becoming long. – term English learners and students who have learned enough English to be reclassified as proficient.

Currently, the department collects and reports test results for English learners as a whole, but not for specific subgroups.

Long-term English learners are defined as students who have been enrolled in US schools for six or more years and have not progressed on the English proficiency test for two or more years. Students defined as being at risk of becoming long-term English learners are those who have been enrolled in US schools for four or five years and score intermediate or below on the English Proficiency Test.

More than 2 million California public school students speak a language other than English at home. Half of them now speak English. Of those who are still learning English, 1 in 3 are long-term English learners and 1 in 5 are at risk of becoming long-term English learners.

Proponents of the bill say separating data on subgroups of English learners would give state and local school districts a better picture of each group’s performance, helping them provide more targeted support. .

“I represent a district where the majority of the residents are Latinos, and a lot of the children are children of immigrants from Mexico or Central America,” said Congresswoman Luz Rivas, D-Los Angeles, who presented the project. of law. “I’ve spoken with teachers, principals and other educators, and they really want the data and the tools. They are determined to ensure that these students succeed.

The nonprofit organization Californians Together, which researches and advocates for students who speak a language other than English at home, released a report on long-term English learners last year that called the State to provide more data on the academic results of subgroups of students.

Manuel Buenrostro, associate director of policy for Californians Together and co-author of the report, said if the bill passes, he hopes having this data will encourage more districts to include goals and outcomes. for long-term English learners in their local control. Accountability Plans, or LCAPS, which detail how districts plan to spend funds to help high-needs students.

“We consistently find that the needs of English learners are not considered as much as we would like in LCAPS, let alone subgroups such as long-term English learners,” Buenrostro said.

For example, Californians Together would like to see districts do more monitoring of students in grades three through five and provide stronger support for students flagged as at-risk to help them learn English faster, so they don’t become long-term English learners. .

As well as disaggregating test results by subgroups of English learners, the bill would also require the department to report how many students are both English learners and disabled.

“That’s huge because 36% of our long-term English learners are doubly identified as students with disabilities,” Buenrostro said. “We know from the investigation we conducted in our ‘Renewing Our Promise’ report that districts were struggling to better serve these dual-identifying students.”

María Martínez-Poulin, assistant superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said it would be especially helpful to separate the scores of students who are already fluent in English from those who are still learning the language.

“I have been in education for 32 years and the current accountability system combines students who are fully proficient in English and upgraded English learners into one indicator. It is difficult to distinguish English Learners from Long-Term English Learners and Reclassified English Fluent Students,” Martínez-Poulin said. “We want something that will ensure our multilingual students get the support they deserve.”

Jennifer Baker, legislative attorney for the California Association for Bilingual Education, agrees.

“We think it’s important to make sure that we effectively serve all students and leave no student behind,” Baker said. “A lot of our long-term English learners have really been left behind for a long time. We want to make sure that anyone who touches these students in any way has the tools to make sure we help them succeed. .

No arguments in opposition to the bill were filed. It was adopted by the Assembly and should be heard Monday before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Zaidee Stavely covers bilingual education, early learning and immigration as it relates to schools and hosts EdSource’s Education Beat podcast.