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Study on ELLs In California Is Flawed, Says Advocacy Group

A few weeks back, I wrote about a new study from University of California, Berkeley, researchers who concluded that educators in California may be funneling too many young students into English-language learner programs.

The researchers said the state exam used to judge the English-proficiency of 4- and 5-year old students entering school is leading to an overclassification of students as ELLs. A major problem, they said, was using an exam that takes more than two hours to complete—and one that tests reading and writing—on such young kids.

But one California-based advocate for English-learners has pointed out several shortcomings with the Berkeley study.

Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, the executive director of Californians Together, a nonprofit coalition of parent and civil rights groups that advocates for improving services for English-language learners, sent me an analysis that largely finds fault with the study's methodology.

"The report is based on survey data where the authors garnered comments from school district personnel regarding EL identification practices," the analysis says. "The authors do not present their survey instrument, and do not disclose data on characteristics of the universe of 134 districts or on those 37 districts (24 percent) who responded to the survey."

The analysis also notes that the study does not indicate whether the school personnel who were interviewed in the responding districts were qualified to do so or whether their answers were accurate.

There's much more to the Californians Together response to the Berkeley study. And the study, of course, does not include a response from the Berkeley research team. But dig into it and let me know what you think.

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