State,  local schools differ on who's fluent in English
Oakland Tribune
9, 2005

By Jill Tucker, STAFF WRITER

 While nearly half of the state's public school English language learners are fluent according to test scores released Tuesday, just a fraction of those students are ever considered as such by their school districts.

 And that, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, is a glaring discrepancy that must be addressed.

 The annual release of the California English Language Development Test results showed 47 percent of test takers scored in the early advanced or advanced levels of English proficiency up from 25 percent in the 2001-2002 school year.

 During that same period, a stagnant 6 percent to8 percent of students statewide were reclassified as fluent.

 O'Connell said he will be urging districts to review their processes for determining when a student should be moved out of the English language learners category.

 "Students often do not have access to the more rigorous,   challenging courses, such as advanced placement courses or international baccalaureate courses, unless they are considered by their school to be fluent in English," O'Connell added.

 In Hayward, for example, 5.2 percent of the district's English learners were reclassified as fluent during the 2003-2004 school year, while more than 22 percent had tested at high levels of English proficiency by state test standards.

 Debbie Bradshaw, director of assessment, research and evaluation for the Hayward School District, said she agreed that such a discrepancy existed. But, she argued, there were good reasons for it.

 "This is a test of English language proficiency," Bradshaw said about the state test, explaining that other standardized tests and grades measure whether a student has mastered the academic language critical to succeed in school.

 State Board of Education criteria for reclassification includes early advanced or advanced   scores on the state test, and scores on language arts standardized tests and teacher and parent input.

 Bradshaw noted that students who eventually are deemed fluent by the school district outperformed the average Hayward student on exit examinations and other tests. "I would say that we're doing it correctly," she said.

 Districts often receive extra federal and state funding to accommodate the needs of English learners. But Bradshaw said it was "ludicrous" to suggest that   money would be a disincentive for school officials to transfer students out of the category.