Newly-proficient ELs added to academic accountability list

Newly-proficient ELs added to academic accountability list

(Calif.) The academic progress of students recently reclassified out of the English learner designation will be included among the elements used to evaluate school performance, under a measure approved Wednesday by the California State Board of Education.

Although schools have long been required to track how many students learn enough English each year to be assimilated into the mainstream classroom, how those students performed afterwards has been largely a void in data collection.

At the urging of community and stakeholder groups, the board agreed to expand the academic indicator reports to include reclassified English learners up to four years after they’ve returned to the general education classroom.

“There’s a general consensus that we should display the EL and the RFEP (reclassified fluent-English-proficient) separately,” said Ting Sun, a board member since 2015. “Whether it gets on the front page or someplace else–this goes back to my previous comment, that we need to focus on what the function of this is and why are we doing it.”

The state board has been engaged for the better part of two years in reconstructing a school accountability system based on more than just test scores–well ahead of passage last year of the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which provides for a similar approach to measuring performance.

Central to the state’s system are the Local Control Accountability Plans–a state mandated report aimed at communicating to parents and community leaders how schools intend on using state education funds to support three targeted student groups: English learners, low-income and foster youth.

Wednesday’s action by the board was aimed at finalizing a set of rubrics that will be used by county offices of education along with the state to review district LCAPs and evaluate whether they are meeting their own performance goals.

Both state and federal law require that local educational agencies administer English language proficiency tests to students from kindergarten through the 12th grade whose primary language is not English. How to report the results of that testing remains an issue.

Currently, the LCAP defines English learners as those students who are not yet proficient enough in English language arts to pass the state test–there is no further designation for students that have recently passed the exam and have moved back into the mainstream classroom.

Supporters of the board’s attempt to widen the reporting definition, note that many former ELs continue to struggle with the general education curriculum even though they have passed the proficiency exam.

“Without separate data relating to the specific needs of each group, and without clear guidance requiring LEAs plan a response to those needs, there’s a potential of leaving those needs out,” said Karen Cadiero-Kaplan, until recently the head of CDE's English Learner Support Division and now a professor of education at San Diego State.

Some critics of the idea have pointed out that lawmakers that crafted the enabling legislation behind the creation of the LCAP and new accountability requirements could have called for a separate measure of the RFEP but didn’t.

“The State Board does not have the authority to undermine the clear intent of the State Legislature by defining a standard for use in the LCAP template based on a different definition of ELs. California should continue treating ELs as a distinct group for accountability purposes,” representatives from the California Rural Legal Assistance and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to the board.