[lg policy] California: Parents, Educators React to Los Angeles Schools' English Language Learner Policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 22 15:08:59 UTC 2013

 Parents, Educators React to Los Angeles Schools' ELL Policy
 By Alyssa Morones on October 21, 2013 12:10 PM

*From guest blogger Alyssa Morones*

Two months into the school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District's
English-language-learner students will be rearranged into classes based on
their English-language proficiency, reports the *Los Angeles
The district's decision to implement this policy has spurred protests from
parents, teachers, and principals.

The change in ELL instruction is a response to an investigation by the U.S.
Department of Education's office of civil
which determined that the district's English-language-learner services were
inadequate, with some students lingering for years in ELL classes.

The district entered an agreement with the office of civil rights in
October 2011. Soon after, it began the process of developing a master plan
based on an instructional policy set in 2000 that had never been widely
implemented. The plan had to be approved by the federal civil rights office
before it could be approved by the district school board.

But the new master plan ignores the question of whether separating students
by their English-fluency level is better than including them in classes
where they can interact with students with a diverse range of English

Katherine Hayes, the district's chief research scientist, in an interview
with the *Times, *said the data show that when students are placed with
others of a similar language-proficiency level, they become fluent faster.
She also said, however, that this is not a subject that has been highly

The article also quotes experts in bilingual education with United Teachers
Los Angeles who expressed support for the policy change since it would
allow teachers to better focus instruction.

Under the district's plan, a student's English-proficiency level will be
the top consideration in forming classes. Students will be assessed two to
three times per year, with the goal of moving students to full proficiency
within five years.

Though the plan's aims are to have students move up together to the next
proficiency level each year, Hilda Maldonado, the director of multilingual
and multicultural education for the district, said in an interview
with *Education
Week*, "we know, however, that we're working with individual kids who may
progress at different rates."

Therefore, decisions of when to move students up to a new fluency level
will be made by individual school sites.

Parents are petitioning the district to postpone the class reorganizations
until next year and have held protest rallies to express their discontent.
Meanwhile, 17 South Los Angeles principals penned a letter to Robert Bravo,
the instructional superintendent for that part of the district, warning him
that the policy could create a "chasm" between their schools' English and
non-English-speaking communities.

But Bravo rejected the request to delay and warned principals that they
would be subject to disciplinary measures if they failed to honor the
policy in their schools.

District officials said they were unsure how many of the district's
elementary schools would have to reorganize their classes, since some
already organize their students based on English proficiency. They also
added that the policy encourages non-core classes, such as physical
education, art, and music, to mix students of various proficiency levels.


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