A Report Takes a Look at Reclassification in California

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 24, 2007 1 min read
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The Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank in Arlington, Va., has published a paper that implies that some school districts in California should be reclassifying more of their English-language learners as fluent in English each year. In the 2005-2006 school year, California’s school districts, on average, reclassified 9.6 percent of English-language learners as fluent, the paper states. It features case studies for several districts, including the 19,600-student Alvord Unified School District, in Riverside, Calif., where the reclassification rate in the 2005-2006 school year was 1 percent, and the 89,000-student Long Beach Unified School District, in Long Beach, Calif., where the reclassification rate was 15.2 percent.

Please note that while the Lexington Institute calls the paper a “research study” on its Web site, the piece is written by Joanne Jacobs, a freelance writer in California, who draws from other people’s research.

The paper quotes a few questions from one researcher, Robert Linquanti, the project director and senior research associate for WestEd, a San-Francisco-based research and service organization, that, in my experience, many educators can’t readily answer about the English-language learners in their schools--particularly educators who don’t directly run programs for such students. Among those questions: “How many students leave your elementary schools still as [English-learners]? Of those, how many have been there since kindergarten or 1st grade? How many go on to be reclassified? How well do they do?”

Mr. Linquanti notes that when educators dig up the data to answer those questions, they are sometimes dismayed to find that English-language learners aren’t doing well in middle and high school, according to the report.

In addition, the paper includes an interesting anecdote about how the 13,400-student Evergreen Elementary School District in San Jose, Calif., held a ceremony to honor students who had graduated from the category of being English-language learners because they had attained fluency. That’s a practice that, it seems to me, would nudge schools to pay more attention to how well they are helping students become fluent.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.