Woodland (California): More local students speak second languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun May 27 13:07:17 UTC 2007

   More local students speak second languages By Democrat staff
Daily Democrat Article Created:05/26/2007 08:38:11 AM PDT  It probably
wouldn't surprise anyone in Woodland that more students speak Spanish as a
second language than any other. But it might surprise some to learn that
Punjabi is also spoken by local students, as is Urdu, Khmer, Mandarin,
Korean, Cantonese and Vietnamese. Those are the findings of Woodland School
District's annual Language Census. Woodland, as well as other districts
throughout California, is required to collect a language census - commonly
referred to as the "R-30" - each year. The census is compiled for each
school and the full reported is submitted to the state Department of
Education. It includes those students who are "English learners" as well as
those who are "Fluent English Proficient as of March 1.

The census is important partly because it helps the district develop classes
for those needing to learn English, but also because state funding depends
on how many "limited-English" students there are. A study conducted by
researchers from the University of California Linguistic Minority Research
Institute, a systemwide center based at UC Santa Barbara during 2006, found
among other things schools with high concentrations of English learners are
less likely to have fully certified teachers than schools with low
concentrations of English learners, even after accounting for differences in
school poverty. The study has important implications for state policy at a
time when California and other states with high concentrations of English
learners are struggling to meet state and federal accountability goals,
including those imposed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"These findings show that some schools face much greater challenges in
educating students and meeting state and federal mandates than other
schools, and they should be given the support and resources to meet those
mandates," said Russell Rumberger, director of the UC institute. Current
funding formulas, he added, are simply based on the number of "ELs" in the
school, not the language diversity or concentration. The study found
widespread language diversity in California's public schools. Although 85
percent of California's English learners speak one language Spanish most
schools in the state serve a number of language groups.

More than 4,000 schools in California almost half of the schools in the
state have English learners from at least six language backgrounds, and 80
schools have EL students from more than 20 language backgrounds. Although
most schools have a concentration of English learners from only one or two
language groups, 183 schools in California have 10 or more students in five
or more language groups. Serving a large number of languages, the scholars
said, presents a different challenge for schools. For instance, locating and
organizing staff and volunteers who can communicate with all the various
language communities may be difficult.

And grouping students for instruction by teachers able to communicate with
them in their own language is organizationally much more challenging.
Schools where the vast majority of English learners come from one or two
language groups, in contrast, have more educational options for meeting the
needs of their students. In Woodland, there are 17 distinct language groups.

Other second languages in the district include Yao, Gujarati, Russian,
Hmong, Hindi, Khmer (Cambodian) Japanese, Mandarin, Filipino, Korean and
Cantonese. According to the district census, the number of "English
learners" in the Woodland has been growing yearly, mirroring a state trend.
In 2000, there were 2,424 students learning English compared to 3,330
students this year. The district serves nearly 11,000 students overall.

Spanish is the most dominant second language spoken by students at 85
percent of students who have English as their second language , or 1,367
students. The second most prominent second language is Punjabi at 108
students, or 6.72 percent, followed by 32 students who speak Urdu, or
1.99percent. If it's unsurprising that Spanish is the most common
language spoken in Woodland schools, it may be surprising where it's spoken.
If people thought Woodland and Pioneer high schools because of the size of
their student populations, they would almost be right.

In fact, Woodland Prairie Elementary School, has more students who speak
Spanish than either Woodland or Pioneer high schools, with 355 students,
compared to 342 students who speak Spanish at Woodland High and 305 at
Pioneer High. Woodland Prairie also has 22 students who speak Punjabi while
Ramon Tafoya Elementary School has 25 students able to speak Punjabi, the
same number as Pioneer High School. Woodland High has only seven students
who speak Punjabi. While those 3,330 students able to speak a second
language may be daunting in terms of total enrollment and the need for
teachers to help them learn English, the district also reported that 1,607
students are "English Proficient."

The numbers of English-speakers are scattered throughout the district.
However, the district's survey shows most students have learned English by
fourth grade with spikes in seventh and ninth grades as well. In all, some
430 teachers in the district are involved in "English Language" services,
according to the report with 31 providing primary language instruction. The
Woodland results are indicative of the problems teachers throughout
California face in providing education to those students who speak a second
language but have not yet learned English.

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