Just because Jose and Maria pass tests of English fluency doesn’t mean their schools will admit they’re no longer “English Learners.” As the Orange County Register reports, roughly two-thirds of California students who score well on English tests remain in special programs.
Students could still be labeled “English learners” because of low academic achievement, rules for becoming fluent that vary by district, and, possibly, money, researchers say. Schools statewide could have lost an estimated $53.7 million if students who scored well on the state tests were declared fluent, according to state records.
And a state incentive program that offers cash to schools for declaring students fluent has never issued a reward because it lacks funding, state education officials said.
Although test scores have been rising for English learners, only 8 percent of students were designated fluent last year. As many as 15 percent of the state’s English learners scored high on two English tests over the past year and a half.
. . . State test scores suggest more of the state’s English learners could be fluent than districts have reported. For instance, last school year, 402,916 students in grades 3-12 passed the California English Language Development Test, or CELDT, which tests English learners in listening, speaking, reading and writing.
A few months earlier, in the previous school year, 363,447 English learners passed the California Standards Test in English, which is given to all students in grades 2-11 every year.
Only 120,122 students were declared fluent last year by schools, however.
New accountability rules may change the incentives, which will change the results. California can provide extra help for students who need it without making help conditional on speaking English as a second language.