School & District Management

For Some Students in L.A., Once an ELL, Always an ELL

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 29, 2009 1 min read

Among students in Los Angeles Unified School District who are classified as English-language learners, 29 percent are not reclassified as fluent in English by the 8th grade, according to a study released by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute yesterday. The study looked at a cohort of nearly 29,000 students who were 6th graders in 1999. Nearly two-thirds of the cohort were ELLs and 42 percent of those ELLs were reclassified as fluent in English by the 5th grade. The study shows that those who are reclassified in elementary school or even early middle school tend to do well academically. Some 29 percent of ELLs were reclassified by the 8th grade. The remaining 29 percent of ELLs, more than half of them born in the United States, weren’t reclassified by the 8th grade. The study didn’t include special education students. The Associated Press picked up on the findings of the study. (Update: So did the Los Angeles Times.)

In 2002, I featured in EdWeek the stories of several long-term ELLs in Los Angeles who were born in the United States. Though many educators are concerned about long-term ELLs and talk about them at conferences, I know of few effective programs designed to address their needs. The New York City school district is one of the few I know of that commissioned researchers to study the issue and try an intervention aimed at long-term ELLs. (One of those researchers, Kate Menken, an assistant professor of linguistics at Queens College, was a guest for an EdWeek chat about long-term ELLs.)

The Tomas Rivera study says that a review of current reclassification rates of ELLs in Los Angeles indicates that the rate has not changed significantly in a decade.

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