Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education

Opinion: L.A. Unified Has Financial Incentive Not to Reclassify ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 25, 2009 2 min read

A guest commentary in the Los Angeles Daily News accuses Los Angeles Unified School District of keeping students in programs to learn English because they get extra funds from the federal and state governments to educate them. It also implies the school system keeps students in the category of English-language learners longer than necessary so that the more-fluent students can help bring up the average score of ELLs for purposes of accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Lance T. Izumi, the senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, uses strong language to make the argument that administrators in Los Angeles schools should be urged to raise the rate that they reclassify students as fluent in English. One way to do this, he writes, “is to change the various laws that create the perverse incentives that keep students in the English-learner ghetto.”

Izumi is putting his own spin on the results of a study by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute about reclassification rates for ELLs in L.A., released last month. It found that 29 percent of ELLs in the district aren’t reclassified as fluent in English by the 8th grade.

I’ve been hearing the complaint that California administrators keep ELLs in special programs for financial reasons for nearly a decade, as long as I’ve been writing about English-language learners for Education Week. Ron Unz, the businessman who financed a campaign that persuaded voters to pass Prop. 227, which curtailed bilingual education in California, made the same complaint back in the late 1990s.

It’s true that districts get extra funds in California to educate ELLs. Only 10 states—Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia—don’t provide any additional money for ELL students other than what they provide for regular students, according to EPE Research Center data published in Quality Counts 2009.

But that doesn’t mean California administrators are keeping ELLs in programs for years for the extra funding. It could be that they just feel the students need the extra help, and they are worried that such students won’t do well in mainstream classes if they are reclassified before they have really strong English skills.

But Jack O’Connell, the state’s secretary of education, has also expressed concern that a large gap exists between the number of ELLs who are scoring as proficient on the state’s English-language proficiency test and the number being reclassified as fluent in English. He’s urged school districts to focus on reclassifying more students each year.

Quite a few states have standardized their policies for the criteria that school districts must use to reclassify students as fluent. But California still lets districts set their own criteria for moving ELLs out of special programs into mainstream classrooms.

What do you think the pros and cons are of the standardization of reclassification criteria across a state?

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

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read