Let California’s English Language Learners Move Ahead

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today released results of the 2004 administration of the annual California English Language Development Test (CELDT) taken by more than 1.3 million English learners. Preliminary results show that 47 percent of English learners in California’s public schools scored at early advanced or advanced overall in English proficiency. This is compared to 43 percent scoring at early advanced or advanced in 2003, 34 percent in 2002, and 25 percent in 2001, an increase of 22 percentage points in four years. Compared to the rest of the nation, California has the greatest number of students whose primary language is not English. The larger issue for California schools is whether districts are willing to let go of these students’ classification as English language learners once tests prove they are proficient in English. Unfortunately, this is yet another example where schools and districts force children to wear a specific label for financial gain and deprive them of challenging academic curriculum. As California Schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell explained in yesterday’s press release: Statewide statistics on the number of English learners reclassified in 2004 to fluent English proficient will be released in August 2005. This information is compiled annually from data submitted to the CDE by local school districts. The statewide Language Census report for 2003, as reported in April 2004, showed 8.3 percent of English learners reclassified to fluent English proficient by their school districts. However, 43 percent of English learners demonstrated English proficiency on the CELDT in 2003. “In the past four years, there has been a noticeable gap between the percentage of English learners demonstrating English proficiency on the CELDT and the percentage of English learners being reclassified by local school districts,” O’Connell said. “I am concerned about this because English learners may not have full access to rigorous academic courses, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, until they have been reclassified to Fluent English Proficient. So I am urging California school districts to review their reclassifying procedures as well as the academic interventions provided to English learners.”