On Friday September 21st, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law, AB 2193 proposed by Democratic Assembly member Ricardo Lara. The new law defines students who are “Long Term English Learners” or “English Learners at risk of becoming Long Term English Learners.” Identifying these students will target resources to language learning needs.
Prior to the new law, school districts were mandated to assess English Language Learners using the California English Language Development Test (CELDT), which measures proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English. The test scores determine whether the students will be classified into the following categories: beginning, early intermediate, intermediate, early advanced, and advanced. This assessment was useful in tracking student performance, but did not identify students as Long Term English Learners or “at risk” of being Long Term English Learners. While the CELDT test will remain in place, what educators DO with the assessment data will change! The new law requires that educators identify English learners struggling to learn English, and provide them with the curricular and pedagogical resources to do so.
To give you a sense of how many students this new law will affect….check this out: According to Dr. Laurie Olsen, in a research report entitled Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California’s Long Term English Learners, of 40 California school districts, 59% of middle and high school English Learners have been in the U.S. schools for more than six years and have not yet reached English proficiency to be reclassified. Furthermore, in a third of those districts, over 75% of the students have not been reclassified as proficient in English. That’s 3/4 of the English Learners in about 12 school districts are not becoming English proficient! Something is terribly wrong!!!! Dr. Olsen, and the organization, Californians Together, have been working hard to organize educators to intervene in the early years of language learning with effective pedagogy.
Long Term English Learners—-
“Long-term English Learner” means an English learner who is enrolled in any of grades 6 to 12, inclusive, has been enrolled in schools in the United States for more than six years, has remained at the same English language proficiency level for two or more consecutive years as determined by the English language development test identified or developed pursuant to Section 60810, or any successor test, and scores far below basic or below basic on the English language arts standards-based achievement test administered pursuant to Section 60640, or any successor test.”
English Learners at risk for being Long Term English Learners–
(b) “English learner at risk of becoming a long-term English learner” means an English learner who is enrolled in any of grades 5 to 11, inclusive, in schools in the United States for four years, scores at the intermediate level or below on the English language development test identified or developed pursuant to Section 60810, or any successor test, and scores in the fourth year at the below basic or far below basic level on the English language arts standards-based achievement test administered pursuant to Section 60640, or any successor test.”
The California Department of Education (CDE) is responsible for collecting data on each public school, school district, or charter. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, this data collection will cost the CDE approximately $50,000 to compile specific data for each school district. It is unclear how much it is going to cost California to make the changes to meet these learner’s needs, once they have been classified. In any case, whatever the cost, it seems like our current approaches are not working well for many English Learners.
Question: Are these classifications going to help students to get the resources they need? Or will they be another way of categorizing student performance based on language?