When English Learners don’t learn

By middle and high school, 59 percent of California’ s English Language Learners aren’t making progress, a study by Californians Together found. Now, if the governor signs the bill, California will be the first state to report data on “long-term” ELLS, reports Ed Week.

A long-term English-learner is defined as a student who’s attended U.S. schools for more than six years, but tests poorly in English Language Arts and in English proficiency and hasn’t moved up a level on the state’s English proficiency exam for two years or more.

These non-learners typically speak English as well (or poorly) as they speak Spanish, but don’t read or write well in either language.  They’ve lived down to low expectations.

In Tracy, where 55 percent of secondary students are long-term ELLs, teachers have created a supplementary class to teach writing, “academic” English, critical reading and study skills, reports Ed Week.

Children from non-English-speaking families who test as proficient in English by second or third grade are high performers who do very well in school.  Those who  leave ELL status by the end of elementary school have a good shot at success.  But the kids who haven’t made it by sixth grade face long odds of completing high school. California has lots and lots of these kids — and I’d bet other states do too.

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  1. Katie Jones says:

    These statistics are unfortunate. It is important for people to be able to communicate with one another and not knowing certain languages makes communication much more difficult.

  2. Stacy in NJ says:

    Get rid of ELS altogether. They should mainstream them by 3rd grade at the latest whether or not they’re “proficient”.

    • I think it depends when the students arrive. If the students are coming to America in high school and don’t speak English, regular high school classes aren’t appropriate (I realize that isn’t the case for many of the students mentioned in this article).
      My district has a special program for students new to the country as we tend to have a lot of refugees settled in our area. It covers language as well as basic skills for living in a developed country.

  3. California needs to figure out a way to get these kids proficient in English because otherwise taxpayers will wind up having to support them, either through handouts like welfare & Medicaid or in the penal system 🙁

  4. They’ve lived down to low expectations.

    Where is the evidence for this? Why the attempt to remove the onus from the students to society at large? As a high school ELL teacher I can attest that most of these long term EL students remain in these classes due to a lack of effort, or desire to achieve.

    The motivated students do move on and achieve English proficency.

    That said, the system does need an overhaul.

  5. Frankly, I’d bet the laggards who are still in ELL are there because

    A) Most are not very bright in the first place — the sharper ones learn fast and place out quickly.

    B) They are “demographically challenged” and come from impoverished and/or incompetent single parent households.

    C) As long as the school gets extra money for ELLs, they’re certainly not going to mainstream someone who will bring down the rest of their test scores.

  6. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    This doesn’t sound like an English Language Learner/ESL problem at all.

    This sounds like an illiteracy problem.

    Which is a pity, because that’s what schools are supposed to solve.

    It’s a new, sad joke:

    “Why can’t the schools teach the students to read?”
    “Because the students are illiterate!”