More students catching on to English
North County Times
March 18, 2004
By: ERIN WALSH - Staff Writer
Students in North County, Southwest Riverside County and all over the state are
becoming better English speakers, according to test scores released Thursday by
the California Department of Education.
The results are from the 2003-04 California English Language Development Test,
which is designed to test the English skills of California public school
students in families that speak languages other than English. In North County
and Southwest Riverside County, most of the students who took the test last fall
came from Spanish-speaking families.
The test measures language ability, but is not designed to test a student's
progress in academic subjects like history, essay writing, math or science.
Unlike other state standardized tests, there are no government rewards or
punishments riding on the scores.
Of the approximately 98,000 San Diego County students who took the test, 40
percent scored proficient in English ---- meaning they could read, write and
speak at a level the state considers fluent. That's up from 32 percent scoring
proficient last year.
In North County, three-fourths of school districts posted higher proficiency
rates than the county, with 40 percent to 66 percent of students in the
proficient range. About 15,400 North County students took the test. Almost every
school district in North County has more fluent students than it had last year.
The biggest jumps were in the San Pasqual Union School District, the Vallecitos
Elementary School District in Rainbow and the Vista Unified School District.
In Riverside County, 39 percent of students from non-English-speaking homes
scored proficient on the exam, up from 31 percent last year. About 68,500
students took the test.
In Southwest Riverside County, where about 1,600 students took the test, all
districts posted higher scores than the county. In districts there, 42 percent
to 57 percent of students could read and write fluently in English. Every
Southwest Riverside County district has more English-fluent students this year
than it had last year. The largest increase in proficient students was at Lake
Elsinore Unified School District, where 48 percent of non-native speakers scored
fluent on the test. Last year, 36 percent of such students were proficient.
Throughout all of California, 39 percent of the state's 1.4 million non-native
English speakers are proficient in English, according to the report. Last year,
30 percent of the state's students were proficient.
State education chief Jack O'Connell called the scores a good sign but said the
state still has a long way to go when it comes to getting all of its students to
read, write and speak well in English.
"Compared to the rest of the nation, California has the greatest number of
students whose primary language is not English," O'Connell said in a written
statement Thursday. "There is still much to be done to meet the educational
needs of English learners, but we should be quite heartened by the progress that
indicates California is on the right track."
Local education officials said they also are encouraged by the scores but
cautioned schools and the public not to use the language test to assess
students' progress in academic subjects. Other tests, known as the California
Standards Tests, measure academic progress.
"It's wonderful if kids are advancing on the (language test), but that's not
enough to know how well a school is doing with its English learners," said Jack
Tierney, an assessment manager for the San Diego County Office of Education.
"If you're a parent or a teacher, you have to look at whether kids are also
improving on the California Standards Tests," Tierney said. "If they're not, it
doesn't matter how well they're doing on this language test."
For more information about the test or to find individual school and district
scores, go to
Contact staff writer Erin Walsh at (760) 739-6644 or