Report Challenges California’s System for Identifying English Learners’ Needs

.Study of local plans identifies key improvements to fix the system

 

Californians Together is releasing a new report today entitled Masking the Focus on English Learners. The report questions the efficacy of California’s accountability system for identifying the needs of English learners accurately. The report claims that by combining data from two English learner subgroups (current and reclassified), the system fails to recognize the distinct needs of each subgroup. It also diminishes the urgency to address the educational needs of current English learners. This undermines the central equity intent of the Local Control Funding Formula.

The report’s strongest recommendation is that the state discontinue aggregating the two subgroups. It suggests to instead report them separately for analysis and planning. “There is great potential for California school districts to be misled by the results of the combined EL subgroup. The decision to combine this data from two student groups with distinct language and academic profiles masks and impedes addressing their distinct academic needs,” said researcher and co-author Dr. Magaly Lavadenz. The report also claims that the system fails to accurately identify research-based programs, actions, and services for English learners.

Key findings presented in the report include:

  • All 24 districts are rated at the two lowest levels for English learner performance
    • only six mentioned a concern for achievement in English language arts
    • only one specified a concern for their overall achievement
  • Analysis of English learner outcomes had minimal attention.
    Course access and targeted services were inconsistently provided to current English learners.
  • Teachers of English learners were offered minimal specific professional development.

“Obscuring current English learner results has detrimental effects on districts’ abilities to address goals in local plans, set growth targets, focus programs and services, and allocate funds for this group of students. We call on the State Board of Education to rectify this measurement policy in order to ensure every English learner can best be served,” said Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, executive director of Californians Together.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Equity for English Learners at Loyola Marymount University and reviewed local plans for 24 school districts that serve 23% of California’s English learners. The full report is available at www.californianstogether.org.

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