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English-Language Learners: California Districts Beating the Odds

In a state where one in four public school students is an English-language learner, a handful of California school districts stand above their peers when it comes to helping ELLs meet academic standards, avoid becoming stuck at low to middle levels of language proficiency, and exit language-acquisition services, according to a new report.

Education Trust-West, in an analysis out this week, identifies 11 unified school districts (those that include all grade bands) that are producing promising outcomes for their English-learners. The report analyzed 2012-13 school year data from 276 unified districts that each served at least 100 English-learners.

Specifically, the report's authors examined how those districts fare with English-learners in four key areas:

  • Proficiency rates on California's English/language arts test;
  • Yearly progressions on the state's exam that measures how students are moving toward proficiency in English;
  • Numbers of students who have been classified as English-learners for five or more years; and
  • Reclassification, the point at which students are deemed proficient enough in the language to no longer need services.

The districts that rose to the top are listed below. They are lumped into three peer groups to account for major differences in terms of poverty rates, as well as the predominant home language spoken among English-learners.

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In looking at proficiency rates on the state's English/language arts test administered in 2013, the report authors acknowledge that the group of students who make up a district's English-learner group is always changing as new students enter services and other student exit them. To address that, the authors used a new group called "Ever-EL" that combines both current English-learners and those who were ELLs, but were reclassified.

The report also features short case studies on other districts delivering good outcomes for English-learners and outlines an array of policy recommendations for districts to follow, especially around providing supports to ELLs and their teachers and schools shift to the more rigorous common standards.

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