Diverse consortium lays out policy priorities to boost English learner achievement

A new policy priority report from The Consortium for English Learner Success finds that if California does not boost the achievement of English learner students, “it will lose the linguistic, cultural, social and economic assets of these students needed to develop a global, diverse and multilingual state and economy.”

CSBA was among the more than 100 organizations and groups that participated in meetings and discussions to identity the five policy priorities aimed to improve access, quality and outcomes for English learner students in Los Angeles County and throughout California by way of policy and legislative advocacy. The policy recommendations come after the consortium’s first year focused on aligning policy, research and practice to better serve English learners.

There are 1.3 million English learners in the state’s K-12 schools, equaling 20 percent of the entire student population. The report states that “the education of EL students is paramount for improving schools in California and is fundamentally an equity issue.” Further, the consortium cites UCLA Center for Health and Policy Research data that 60 percent of California’s children between the ages of 0 and 5 live in a household in which English is not the primary language.

In addition, the consortium draws from 2017–18 Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment statistics to outline the worrying achievement gaps between English learners and non-English learners who met or exceeded standards in English and math. In 2018, nearly 90 percent of English learner students across all grades in California did not meet English and math standards.

With these considerations and data in mind, the consortium identified five 2019 policy priorities in its reported authored by the Alliance for a Better Community:

  1. Guide all levels of the public education towards an asset-based approach to serving dual-language learner/EL students: With the State Board of Education’s adoption of the California English Learner Roadmap in 2017, the consortium concludes that the state must provide teachers, schools, districts, administrators and county offices of education with the support, guidance and funding needed to effectively implement the vision.
  2. View and treat DLL/EL students as a diverse group with varying assets, needs, outcomes and experiences across accountability, instruction, curriculum and services at the state, county and local level: This focus points out that federal and state policy tends to cluster all EL students together as homogenous, while the reality is they have unique educational needs and backgrounds.
  3. Ensure equity, access and adequate funding for DLL/EL students: The consortium finds that though the underlying intent of California’s public school funding model is equity, district and school funding levels remain inadequate to improve outcomes and to meet students’ diverse needs. It is also noted that funding mechanisms must ensure Local Control Funding Formula dollars targeted for English learners reach those students.
  4. Ensure that English learner students have equitable access to core academic content and college preparatory courses: The policy document cites studies that have shown a pattern of English learner students’ exclusion from schools’ standard instructional programs, including core classes in math and science as well as A-G courses required for college admission.
  5. Dramatically increase the number of teachers in California who are fully equipped to meet the diverse needs of DLL/EL students: The consortium reports that, “California faces a major shortage in recruiting, training, supporting and retaining teachers with a bilingual authorization to effectively serve K-12 EL students who are in bilingual or dual immersion programs that use and develop their home language during instruction.”

Several notable participants in The Consortium for English Learner Success include the Association of California School Administrators, the California Department of Education, Californians Together and The Education Trust-West (the full list can be found on page 17 of the report). Several school districts also played a role, ranging from Chula Vista to Long Beach to Glendale.

 CSBA resources

  • CSBA hosts a dedicated webpage about students who are English learners available at csba.org/EnglishLearners. The included reports and articles provide information about English learners and the best ways to meet their needs in order to close existing achievement gaps between EL students and their peers.