School & District Management

Do Long-Term ELLs Know Where They Stand?

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 27, 2010 1 min read
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Long-term English-language learners often aren’t even aware that they are identified as an ELL, a report on this subgroup of students released today says.

Californians Together, a coalition of California civil rights and education groups, has released a report about long-term ELLs based on survey data from 40 school districts in California. It has a lot of interesting findings, such as that 59 percent of ELLs in secondary schools in those school districts have been identified as such for more than six years, which is the definition for “long-term ELLs” used in the report.

What really stood out for me, though, is the fact that many long-term ELLs are clueless about where they stand in terms of meeting criteria to be reclassified as fluent in English or in meeting state academic proficiency standards. “Many long-term English-Learners do not know they are English-Learners. Particularly those who had been placed into mainstream settings for years and are socially comfortable in English.” It also says that many want to go to college but don’t understand how their current courses and record aren’t preparing them to do so.

So in my reporting for my story about the report, I was happy to hear that the Ventura Unified School District in California has made it a point in the last couple of years to tell students where they stand in terms of English proficiency and meeting state academic standards. They’ve prepared a brochure for students explaining the goals of the programs for ELLs (be sure to see page 2) and give each student at the high school level a profile of their status with English proficiency and academic proficiency.

Ventura is also one of California’s school districts that gives students a “multilingual recognition seal” on high school diplomas for students who are proficient in at least two languages.

Jennifer Robles, the bilingual programs specialist for the Ventura school district, told me that while the district notified parents where their children stood academically, it didn’t seem that students were getting the information.

I think it’s a good idea for schools to take time to pitch and explain their ELL programs to students and help them understand the criteria they need to meet to be reclassified as fluent in English.

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