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LA parent voice: New ELPAC test for English learners — ‘Our kids are evaluated with new tests, but how about their teachers?’

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | February 7, 2018

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Every week, we sit down with Los Angeles parents to talk about their students, their schools, and what questions or suggestions they have for their school district. (See our previous interview.)

Denia Barreto has two English learners at Sylmar Leadership Academy. Starting this month, her children, along with the 1.4 million English learners throughout the state, will begin using a new test to evaluate their proficiency in English.

Her concerns about how her children are learning and how prepared they will be for the new test, called the ELPAC, led her to attend a training session for parents held by the district in late January.

LA School Report talked with her during the training session about her goals for her kids and her questions about what she’d like to see. She answered in Spanish:

What do you think of the new test that your kids will take this spring?

I wish we as parents could also be aware of who evaluates the teachers that are preparing the students for these new tests. Sometimes I doubt that those teachers are ready themselves to teach our kids based on what they will be evaluated on for the new test. How do we know that?

I wonder why kids that come from Mexico or Central America in the later grades reclassify faster than our kids who were born here and have been exposed to English since they were little. I don’t understand why our kids stay as ELs for so long.

What is your reclassification target for your own kids?

I would like to see my son, who is now in first grade, to be reclassified by third grade.

I think two years should be the target for all EL kids. They could be proficient in English faster with the right teachers, the right instruction, and the right resources.

Do you have a plan of support for your son to reach that goal?

I’d like to talk with the school’s EL coordinator to create a plan for us that I can follow in school and at home. I’d like to be told specifically what can I do to support him. Usually, I have been told to find some resources at the public library, but I think the school should have those resources such as books and quizzes that can help my son to prepare for the reclassification test. The district always says there are resources, and I’ve heard there’s more state funds for ELs, but I just don’t see them at my son’s school.

LAUSD responds

To answer some of Barreto’s questions, we talked with Hilda Maldonado, executive director of multilingual and multicultural education for LA Unified.

Maldonado suggested that parents should talk to teachers about what their children need more support with, whether it’s improving reading, writing, or comprehension, so they can be better prepared for the test.

“Parents can talk to their students by asking questions, regardless of language, they can read a book together, ask them what the book is about, the plot of the book, or having conversations about the perspective of the reporters when watching the news,” she said.

She also noted that resources are available for parents in English and in other languages, including samples of the questions given in each grade and practice tests, which can be found here. At school sites, there are also parent representatives and EL coordinators who have been trained to direct parents of EL students to helpful materials.

She described the new test as more task-oriented. “The student shows English proficiency by summarizing instructions by the teacher for another student, for example. The level of expectation in English proficiency is more sophisticated than with the CELDT,” the previous state test for English learners.

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