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San Francisco Seeks Federal OK For Plan to Upgrade ELL Services

San Francisco school leaders, parents, and the federal government want a U.S. District Court judge to approve a plan designed to upgrade English-language instruction for more than 16,000 district students in the district.

The school district established its multilingual education program in 1976, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lau v. Nichols that required districts to offer services that enable language-learners to participate effectively in their educational programs.

San Francisco updated the program in 2008 with new standards for identifying, testing and reclassifying English-learners, with a requirement of at least 30 minutes of English instruction every day.

But the San Francisco Chronicle reports that parents have complained that the district has failed to meet the requirements of the 2008 plan. The complaints led to a new round of negotiations in 2012.

"Faithful implementation of this decree will ensure that all EL students are appropriately identified and served, and that Limited English Proficient families have an equal ability to participate in their child's education," U. S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said in a statement. 

All three parties in the case submitted the proposed modified consent decree to U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken on Wednesday. Wilken must approve the plan before it becomes final.

If approved by the court, the modified consent decree would require the San Francisco schools to: 

  • Ensure that language-learner students are appropriately identified and placed when they begin school
  • Provide families with a suite of service options for the students' education
  • Ensure that students with disabilities receive language programs and services
  • Require employees who serve EL students to have training appropriate to their roles
  • Protect the educational rights of at-risk and vulnerable language-learner students, namely those in alternative education or juvenile justice schools, and
  • Communicate with limited English proficient families in a language they understand

"The San Francisco Unified School District made important strides toward promoting the success of every student from the moment the child enters the district," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department's civil rights division said in a statement. "As the American dream is rooted in education, we commend the district for taking this critical step toward ensuring that all students, no matter their language background, have an equal opportunity to access that dream."

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