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Long-term English learners decrease by 6 percent in three years at LAUSD

Mike Szymanski | May 3, 2016

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LongTermEnglishLearnerChartSince the introduction of Long-Term English Learner courses in LA Unified in 2013, the number of those students designated as needing help with English has decreased by 6.4 percent, according to officials.

The district has 36,322 students, or about 5.5 percent of the school population, designated as English learners, said Hilda Maldonado, executive director of LA Unified’s Multilingual and Multicultural Education Department. About 3,300 of those are also designated as special education students.

In a comprehensive report given to the Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Equity Committee on Tuesday, Maldonado said the district is making progress in lowering the number of students who require six or more years of special English instruction — those designated Long-Term English Language learners.

The district is working toward reclassifying those students so they can join the general population. Dual immersion schools and new courses have lowered the numbers and helped the students with their English, administrators said.

“We have made a lot of gains in long-term and standard English learners, but we still have much work to do,” said Maldonado, who also unveiled a new dashboard for charting EL students’ progress online that will launch in August.

The percentage of students reclassified out of the EL program entirely because of their better understanding of English has increased as well. In the 2011-2012 school year, 11 percent of the EL students were reclassified. In 2014-2015, 24 percent were reclassified, according to the multilingual department.

As examples of how the program is working, the administrators brought in principals from Ellen Ochoa Learning Center and 74th Street Elementary.

Mara Bommarito is principal of Ochoa, a dual language school that is 98 percent Latino and has 42 percent designated as EL. One-third of the EL students are in special education. She said 71 percent of the kindergarten students come in requesting to be part of the dual language program.

“We have focused totally on the development of their literacy skills so they can leave us in the 8th grade and go on to high school,” Bommarito said. She has followed her students’ scores and successes after high school. “We want them to be reclassified and college ready.”

School board member George McKenna asked if the school was losing students to charter schools, and the principal said no, despite attempts at recruiting students out of the school. “There is a big commitment to our students by everyone on the staff, and that is keeping the students with us,” she said. The school has maintained an enrollment of about 1,500 K-8th graders for the 11 years she has been there, she said.

Cherise Roper, principal of 74th Street Elementary, said 75 percent of her students are African-American and 25 percent are Latino. She described a diagnostic tool her school uses that identifies African-American linguistic features, such as whether a student confuses the “th” or “f” sound or if the past tense is incorrect. She also said parents at the school are very much involved in the programs.

Kandice McLurkin, program coordinator for the district’s Academic English Mastery Program, said the California Department of Education provided a $300,000 grant that will reboot in June to help the program. There are 11 English-language coaches set up in all parts of the district and the money also helps support 40 parent representatives and parent centers.

“I am encouraged and hope that this work will inspire and become contagious for everyone because it’s a long frustration of mine that the district has not addressed this with adequate resources,” McKenna said. “You need to get the staffing you need and the quality of materials you need for kids to improve their language skills and show the progress.”

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