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EdSource: Progress Report on California's ELLs

For at least a decade, one-fourth of California's primary and secondary school students have, on average, been English-language learners. So educators in states that are the "new kids on the block" in teaching such students might want to spend some time with EdSource's report, "English Learners in California: What the Numbers Say." (The 16-page report costs $5.)

The report gives some answers to important questions about student achievement, and poses some additional questions that need to be answered. Those answers will carry weight because California enrolls one-third of the nation's ELLs.

It's interesting, for example, that the EdSource researchers found that more time spent in U.S. schools by English-learners leads to higher pass rates on the English section of California's high school exit exam (with the exception of English-learners who repeated a grade) but not on the math section of the exit exam.

Given that finding, the EdSource researchers ask: "Why do the English-language arts results follow a pattern that is different from the math results? If these students are truly English learners, how are they able to pass the exam at all? What are the appropriate criteria for labeling students as English-learners? Should students not be reclassified because of difficulty with academic English as opposed to a lack of English fluency?"

Hmm...It's something to think about. If schools are calling students English-language learners, how is it that they can pass a regular English test at all? And I hear lots of educators out there asking yet another question: Should they be expected to pass such tests?

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