Forty-seven of students classified as “English Learners” by Caifornia schools demonstrate early advanced or advanced levels of English proficiency, up from 25 percent in 2001, the first year the California English Language Development Test was used. Maybe kids taught in English learn the language more quickly than educators used to think.
Or maybe they’re being kept too long in a program they’ve outgrown. In 2004, when 43 percent tested at the advanced or early advanced level, only 8.3 percent were reclassified as proficient. Superintendent Jack O’Connell wants districts to reclassify more kids, so they can be eligible to take high-level academic classes. The state education board has passed guidelines to tell districts when they’ve got to admit English Learners have learned English.
Update: Here’s the San Jose Mercury News story, with school officials claiming many students aren’t ready for mainstream classes, despite testing as proficient in English. At a high school district in East San Jose, two-thirds of English Learners passed the test; only 5 percent were reclassified as proficient. With only a few years of schooling to go, these students are being kept out of mainstream classes. More affluent districts reclassify a much higher percentage of students.
The money angle is buried in the story:
Language proficiency tests are mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which requires students learning English to be tested each year until they pass. But schools also receive state and federal funds to serve language learners — so they have educational and financial incentive not to reclassify students too quickly.
“There’s probably some magic number where you reclassify enough to meet federal standards, but not so many that you lose money,” said Wayne E. Wright, assistant professor of cultural and bilingual studies at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
Change the financial incentives and English Learners will move quickly into the mainstream.