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Reports & Research

June 14, 2018

K-12 Reforms and California’s English Learner Achievement Gap

(Editor’s note: In May, the Public Policy Institute of California released a report by researcher Laura Hill examining issues relating to California’s students who are English Learners. The summary of Hill’s report appears below, along with a link to the complete 14-page document.)

English Learner (EL) students have been a key part of California’s K-12 system for decades. They currently make up about 21 percent of the public school population.

English Learner status is meant to be temporary, and indeed, reclassified English Learners (those who are deemed English proficient) are among the best-performing students in the state. But students who remain ELs for longer periods generally have poor outcomes.

An important aim of recent reforms is to change how we fund, educate, assess, and hold districts accountable for EL students, and there are more changes on the horizon.

This report highlights key demographic facts about English Learners, their progress through our schools, recent reforms that aim (at least in part) to narrow the achievement gap for English Learner students, and ways to improve EL outcomes in the future.

  1. Most English Learner students were born in the United States; the vast majority are Spanish speakers.
  2. Some English Learner students are reclassified relatively quickly, while others remain ELs for more than six years. There are new English Learner students entering California’s schools at every grade level, including grade 12.
  3. The Local Control Funding Formula is designed to elevate performance of English Learner students. Yet it is challenging to track spending and difficult to attribute outcomes to increased funding.
  4. The state’s accountability system has expanded district reporting requirements for English Learner students, but educators and policymakers could monitor progress more effectively with the use of longitudinal statewide data.

In the coming months, the state will be revamping its reclassification policies. It should consider three key ways to accelerate the progress of this important group of students.

First, the new reclassification policies should be consistent across districts. Second, the new policies should take advantage of the new alignment between English language development standards and the Common Core standards. Finally, the state should consider allowing reclassification criteria to vary across types of ELs (e.g., students entering at different grade levels).

To read the complete 14-page study, click on the link below:

Source: PPIC

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