English Learners are learning

California’s “English learners” — so-called because they’re not completely fluent in English — are learning, writes Peter Schrag, a long-time Sacramento Bee columnist. Schrag finds a lot of good in the state’s 2006 STAR scores, which the bilingual lobby claims show the need for “to create yet another segregated program for English learners.”

Students reclassified as fluent in English outscore English-only students in English and math proficiency, he writes. Yet many master English but never leave “English learner” status.

. . . 14 percent of English learners (EL) are proficient or above in English (25 percent in math). Meanwhile, there’s been a sharp rise in passing scores on CELDT, the California English Language Development Test, one of the criteria that help determine whether an English learner is ready for reclassification.

. . . The problem, according to state officials, is that for both financial and ideological reasons, districts are not reclassifying students nearly fast enough: Currently, fewer than 10 percent of English learners are redesignated each year, in large part because there’s extra state and federal money for English learners and immigrant students.

Keeping academically successful students in the English learner category also helps local districts meet state and federal formulas for progress by all subgroups of students and protects bilingual programs and the jobs of teachers and bureaucrats in those fields.

The number of English Learners who score at advanced or “early advanced” levels on the English fluency test has doubled in five years; nearly half now test at that level. Students are learning English.

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