Students who speak a language other than English at home and who are not proficient in English are known as English learners (ELs). These students constitute nearly one-third of California’s elementary school students and one-quarter of all K–12 students. As might be expected, these students’ incomplete mastery of English adversely affects their academic performance. Given that proficiency in English is vital to success not only in academic subjects but also, later, in the workforce, both state policy and federal policy consider English proficiency a major goal for EL students. The federal government’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 establishes guidelines for improving both the number of students reaching fluency in English and the number of students making gains on a test of English proficiency. Despite the policy importance of this issue, we know little about EL students and what aids or hinders their advancement toward English proficiency.
Any study of English proficiency requires an understanding of the major state and federal policies affecting EL students. The most controversial policy affecting EL students is Proposition 227, enacted in 1998, which limits access to bilingual education by requiring that EL students be taught “overwhelmingly” in English. Equally important to the education of EL students is the federal NCLB Act. In addition to its English proficiency goals, NCLB requires improvements in academic achievement for EL students, with performance targets equal to those set for all students.
English proficiency is important for the success of EL students. Testing is becoming increasingly significant under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, and each school’s EL population must demonstrate improvements and success in both English proficiency and academic achievement. Academic achievement tests are given in English,2 and without proficiency in English, EL students may be unable to demonstrate their academic abilities on these standardized tests. EL students consistently have lower test scores than other students on standardized tests, including the California Standards Test (CST) and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), which are included in NCLB accountability. No doubt, lack of English proficiency contributes to this gap. English proficiency is also important for success in the labor market (Gonzales, 2000; Trejo, 2003). The most interesting facts I thought was appealing was EL students in California’s schools are diverse along many dimensions.
They are heavily concentrated in the Los Angeles area, but sizable populations exist in many other parts of the state, such as the Central Coast. EL students are also concentrated in early grades: over one-third of elementary school students are English learners. At the higher grades, less than 20 percent of the students are English learners. Over 80 percent of EL students list Spanish as their primary language. The second most common language is Vietnamese, at 2.3 percent. Most EL students were born in the United States of immigrant parents. Over half of EL students in elementary school have been in the same school district since kindergarten, and over half of EL students in secondary school have been in U.S. schools for five or more years. In general, few EL students receive special services such as gifted and talented education, but most receive Title I services. EL students are generally enrolled in ELD and SDAIE programs rather than in bilingual education.
However, a sizable percentage do not report participation in any EL programs. EL program participation varies by language and grade level, but the reasons why some students receive no services are not clear. Even in United States Nonimmigrant students attending an English Language training program of study (ESL programs) should take note that a new law has taken effect. In accordance with the Accreditation Act, all ESL programs of study that are SEVP-certified must either possess or have applied for accreditation before Dec. 15, 2011, by a regional or national accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education. On May 18, 2011, SEVP distributed Broadcast Message 1204-03 informing the academic community about the Accreditation Act and its requirements. Designated School Officials have an ongoing responsibility to inform F students about how the Accreditation Act will affect them if SEVP must take action against the school.
SEVP will notify F students currently enrolled in an ESL program of study whose certification is withdrawn, or whose school is no longer eligible to issue Forms I-20 for ESL training, via the student’s current U.S. address as listed on the Form I-20.Those students will have the following options: 1. Finish the current term and transfer to another SEVP-certified institution’s ESL program of study that is in compliance with the Accreditation Act. F students will have 30 days after the end of their current session to transfer. 2. Depart the United States within 30 days of the completion of the current term. Failure of an F student to transfer to another SEVP-certified school or to depart the United States, per guidance above, will result in termination of that student’s SEVIS record, which may have implications on an F student’s future ability to enter the United States. SEVP is still in the process of determining the accreditation of all SEVP-certified ESL programs.
Because of this, it is the F student’s responsibility to ensure, if the student chooses to continue studies in an ESL program, that the program of study has proper accreditation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may deny entry into the United States to an F student who has not yet entered the United States and is in possession of a Form I-20 issued by an ESL program of study with a withdrawn SEVP-certification. Any F student CBP turns away who wishes to enter the United States as an F student must obtain another Form I-20 from an SEVP-certified ESL program of study in compliance with the Accreditation Act. SEVP will allow enrollment in that school to any F student with a Form I-20 issued prior to their ESL program of study’s withdrawal from SEVP certification.
However, those students must transfer at the end of the current term to another SEVP-certified ESL program. Please note that schools that offer both ESL and other programs of study may remain SEVP-certified to issue Forms I-20 for other SEVP-certified programs of study, even where the ESL program of study loses certification. In conclusion, these laws will mpact the teachers tremendously because many teachers are not trained to teach class in a manner that involves including the Ell students. It would require more elaborate training for those in the class and could possibly stun the growth or the learning process of the other students that are fluent in the English language. I believe there needs to be a separate classroom for those students and have only qualified trained teachers in the classrooms. We welcome the immigrants into the system we just need to be fully qualified and equipped with appropriate tools to teach the students and give then the education that is well deserved.
Gonzalez, Arturo (2000), “The Acquisition and Labor Market Value of Four English Skills: New Evidence from the NALS,” Contemporary Economic Policy, 18(3): 259-269. Trejo, Stephen J. (2003), “Intergenerational Progress of Mexican-Origin Workers in the U.S. Labor Market,” Journal of Human Resources 38(3): 467-489.
Lopez, Mark Hugo (2003), “Do English Language Assistance Programs Affect Educational Attainment and Labor Market Outcomes? Evidence from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 and High School and Beyond,” unpublished manuscript, Maryland University.
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