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Report from charter group suggests English learners do better at charters

Mike Szymanski | July 7, 2015

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ELreportEnglish learner students are performing better in charter schools than in traditional schools, according to a new report released by the California Charter Schools Association.

The report, “Success for English Learners in Charter Schools,” found that throughout the state, independent charter schools are serving nearly 2 percent more English learner (EL) students than traditional schools.

And, in LAUSD, autonomous charter schools serve 1 percent more EL students than traditional schools do, according to the report.

“There is a misconception that the charter schools are not serving the hardest to reach students, particularly in urban communities, and this report shows that’s not true,” said Jason Mandell, spokesman for the charter association. “This shows that the California charters are serving the EL community better.”

Scores analyzed included those from the Academic Performance Index (API), Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAO) and the California English Language Development Test (CELDT).

Francisco Rodriguez, vice president of the California Federation of Teachers and member of the English Language Learners Committee, said it is not surprising that some EL scores are better at charter schools, but he also points to increasingly higher scores of EL students at independent schools.

“It is not a surprise that a charter school that comes into a community specifically helps English language learners and the results of their scores are a little higher,” said Rodriguez, who works in Watsonville and Pajaro Valley in Santa Cruz County, where schools are 80 to 90 percent Hispanic with up to 24 percent EL students. He said that some of the report’s findings do not comport with what he has discovered in his community.

“The strategies they are using seem the same in the charter schools and independent schools, so I’m not really sure why test scores would be different,” he said. “But ultimately, if (traditional) schools received all the funding they needed from the state, there would be better results all around.”

Rodriguez mentioned that some charter schools require a level of parent volunteerism, which some EL families cannot provide because of multiple jobs by working parents.

The CCSA said it doubts that the parent volunteerism requirement is much of a problem.

The report says many families of EL children have misconceptions about charter schools, thinking they are hard to get into or are expensive. But, the report contends that when the families have good word-of-mouth in a community, the charter school’s EL enrollment thrives.

Overall, the report supported two major findings:

  • Across several data sources and over several years, EL student performance is higher at charter schools. While some of the differences were modest, the consistency of this finding was striking.
  • In general, EL enrollments are lower at charter schools than at comparable traditional public schools. However, different disaggregations (by charter type, urban-rural, grade level and region) show varying sizes in the gap (with the gap closed in some instances).


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