Faster exit from English Learner status

Any “English Learner” who scores proficient in English and earns a B average should be out of the program, argues Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, in an Orange County Register commentary. Norby, who’s taught immigrants as a high school and night school ESL teacher, has introduced a bill to do that. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, has a bill to change the home language survey, which can place a child in the English Learner program if any adult speaks a language other than English ever.

The California English Language Development Test is difficult to pass, especially for those barely able to read, and there is no statewide standard as to what is a passing grade. School funding is based partly on ELL percentages, so there is a financial incentive to keep kids in the program. Annual testing is costly, time-consuming and takes students away from valuable class time.

Parental petitions to remove their kids from ELL are routinely rejected. Some are told that, while their child may be conversant in English, they don’t yet know “academic English.” Well, what first-grader does?

Poorly educated parents don’t know how to get their kids out of ELL status, Norby writes. In Santa Ana, where 11 percent of the K-12 students are foreign-born, 55 percent are classified as ELL. In wealthier Irvine,  19 percent of the students are born abroad – mostly from Asia and the Middle East — yet only 13 percent are ELL.

“In a globalized economy, California’s bilingual kids are an asset to our state and should not be placed in academic dumping grounds,” Norby writes.

About Joanne


  1. CaliforniaTeacher says:


    My husband speaks the occasional Russian phrase to our child. The key word here is “occasional.” Upon entering kindergarten, he made the (colossal, in retrospect) mistake of checking “yes” on the box that asked if we spoke any other languages at home.

    She was placed in an ELL pull out program in kindergarten. Despite numerous requests and demands on our part that she be removed immediately- she was a native speaker for Pete’s sake – they did not. It took until March. And, she has been tested now each year for ELL. What a waste of taxpayer dollars!

    • Yet another reason to homeschool – getting away from all the brain-dead bureaucrats. Similar to your situation, my spouse is Korean so there is quite a bit of that spoken at home, and the kids understand a fair deal of it. But they are native speakers of English, and they would not need extraordinary English instruction.

      It sure sounds like a scam designed to maximize taxpayer monies flowing to the schools – between pigeonholing kids into unnecessary ESL programs and overzealous administrators misdiagnosing kids as LD / ADHD / et al, I wonder how much of the taxpayers’ money is being sunk into these black holes.

    • CaliforniaTeacher says:

      FWIW, “he” did not enter kindergarten, our kid did. That’s what I get for typing too fast.

  2. Attatching extra funding to certain kids, whether for ELL or any kind of spec ed, creates strong incentives for schools to identify as many kids as possible. Also, the teachers, admins and other staff (speech path, PT etc) involved with those programs have the same incentives to maximize the number of kids receiving services, both by bringing more kids in and by refusing to let kids out – because it’s about their jobs.

  3. CaliforniaTeacher says:

    I don’t think it’s about jobs as much as slow-turning wheels.

  4. with the proposed california funding model slated to shift to a base rate + an addition for low socio-economic + a second addition for ELL, the incentives to misclassify will grow more intense.

    [quote] Governor Brown’s budget proposal eliminates much of that categorical money – and all the strings that are attached to it – and proposes an equal base grant for every pupil in the state. He then proposes to add money to the grant based on whether or not that pupil is an English-language learner or qualified as low-income. This “weighted pupil formula” is based on the fact that being poor and not knowing English are two of the biggest barriers to a student’s success.

    Some districts stand to gain from this change – especially those districts that have a large number of students that are low-income or still learning English. Other districts, those with a lot of categorical funding derived from school bus money, or those who have a student population with very affluent parents, for example, may lose revenue with the elimination of categorical funding that used to benefit them. In an attempt to temper such an impact, a one-year “hold harmless” provision guarantees that no district will receive less in 2012-13 than they did in 2011-12. [/quote]

  5. Dumb, researchers have known for years it takes 5 to 7 years to develop an academic understanding of a new language.

    Here in Texas the state has eliminated ALL exemptions for ELL, meaning a child who comes in the day before the test not speaking a word of English has to take it, and the score is counted against the school.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      How is it “counted against the school?” If they are doing some sort of “value added” system, there has been no time to add value.

  6. Sean Mays says:

    You mean if I ask my kid to work a gedanken experiment that puts them into the ELL bucket? *boggle What if they ask for sauerkraut with their wurst? If she says we don’t celebrate Easter until the 15th is that a flag too? Sigh …

    Roger: I guess Mike in Texax is saying it counts against the school for AYP purposes, not for the value adds. As in, a bunch of group X showed up on test day, we tested them, they bombed and now subgroup X has a big negative trend in their proficient and advanced rates; and so on.