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Seattle Schools to Expand ELL Services After Critical State Audit

The Seattle school system will expand its English-language-learner services after a scathing state audit determined that the district shortchanged language-learner students and their families.

During the annual review, the state superintendent's office found two critical violations:

  • For two years, the district failed to give a required English placement test to about 1,200 students who reported speaking a language other than English at home.
  • The district asked parents to waive the child's rights to English-language instruction if they wanted their child to enroll in a school closer to their home that did not have language-learner services.The standard forced almost 350 families to choose between their neighborhood school and a school with language services, KIRO-TV reported.

In response to the state's finding, the district will begin offering services at all 97 of its schools, said Veronica Gallardo, director of ELL and international programs for the Seattle school system.

ELL programs had been offered in about two-thirds of Seattle schools, mainly because not every district school has a large language-learner population, Gallardo said.

The state superintendent's office first notified the district in March that its English-language-learner programs were out of compliance, the Seattle Times reported.

Here are links to the state review and the district's response.

Close to 12 percent, or 6,000, of Seattle's 52,000 students are currently receiving English-language services. The students speak more than 100 different languages at home; Spanish, Somali, Vietnamese and Chinese speakers represent 75 percent of the language-learners.

In addition to expanding ELL services to all schools, Gallardo said the district will begin one-on-one training with enrollment staff to clarify the language-testing requirements.

By June, the district must test the 1,200 students whose language skills were not assessed when they first enrolled in the Seattle schools.

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