Marking Fluency in English with More than a Paper in a Student’s File

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 30, 2007 1 min read
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Here’s a story of an educator who picked up an idea at a conference and copied it for some of the English-language learners he serves in his work. The idea is to give ELLs a certificate and honor them in a special way when their school districts officially reclassify them as fluent in English.

Mark R. Condit, a program manager for multilingual education for the San Joaquin County Office of Education in California, heard educators from the West Contra Costa Unified School District speak at a session of the California Association for Bilingual Education about how they honor English-language learners with a certificate and school assembly when they become fluent in English.

Mr. Condit then asked a vice principal in the Manteca Unified School District—one of 16 K-8 school districts served by the San Joaquin County Office of Education—what happens when children in that school system are reclassified as fluent in English. In a phone interview this month, Mr. Condit relayed to me that the vice principal said, “A lot of kids probably don’t even know it happened. They get a paper in the file.”

Manteca’s Shasta and Nile Garden elementary schools were the pilot sites for Mr. Condit’s efforts. He showed up at those schools last spring to present a certificate to children who were reclassified as fluent in English. Click here to see a sample certificate and here to see a photo of one of the presentations. A local newspaper provided coverage of the new program.

Curriculum Associates Inc. also provided the 26 children who got certificates with several educational resources, including a thesaurus, a writing and grammar handbook, and a calendar of home activities for parents to support children with literacy activities. Mr. Condit said he gathered by the children’s smiles that they were pleased to be recognized. “It’s important for them to be honored,” he said. “It’s a significant educational achievement.”

In California, which has the most English-language learners of any state, about 9 percent of such children are reclassified each school year as fluent in English. See my earlier post, “A Report Looks at Reclassification in California.”

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