English Language Learners Continue to Struggle in California

California has the most English language learners (ELL) students than any other state. About 29 percent of all ELL students in the nation are in California. Providing instruction to these students is a challenge.

It’s hard to teach English speaking students the basic academic fundamentals, but it can be harder to engage and instruct ELL students because of language barriers with school staff and even coordinating outreach to parents who do not speak English. Parent engagement is key for all students regardless of the language that they are most proficient in.

Earlier this year, the 5 Million Voices project from National Public Radio collected some data on ELL students across the country. Let’s focus on the data from California for a moment:

  • In California, the most common language for ELL students is Spanish. This is a no brainer given our state’s population.
  • But California also has a significant number of Chinese speaking, Vietnamese speaking, and Arabic speaking ELL students.
  • Nearly a quarter of the students in our state are ELL students.

With the release of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test scores, we have more specific information about how ELL students are performing in the state and in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). It’s disappointing. ELL learners are not making progress according to this assessment.

About 10 percent of ELL students met or exceeded the English language arts standards, and slightly more than nine percent did so in math statewide. In LAUSD, there has been no growth in the progress of ELL learners for two years. This year just four percent of ELL student meet or exceed standards this year in English language arts, and five percent of ELL learners meet or exceed standards in math.

There’s a lot of work to be done for ELL students to make progress at meeting basic standards. We hope that parents and community members demand action and support for our ELL students so that they can have successful academic careers and graduate from high school college ready.

What do you think?

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