State legislature exploring changes to English Learner reclassification criteria

There have been recent changes to the state and federal accountability system, including the requirements set forth by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Both laws require English Learners (ELs) to make progress towards English proficiency, which the State Board of Education has determined will be evaluated through the use of two data sources: (1) the score of proficiency on the state’s annual English language proficiency assessment (currently the California English Language Development Test and starting in 2018-19, the new English Language Proficiency Assessment of California), and (2) reclassification rates. This will result in the creation of an English Learner Indicator, or composite, that will be reported for all local educational agencies that meet the numerically significant subgroup size of 30 or more English learners.

On Nov. 28, several school administrators from across the state were invited to provide their insight and expertise to Senate education staff members and share the policy changes that may be needed to support English Learners to successfully reclassify before they are identified as a long-term English Learner. Given this work on English Learners accountability by the California Department of Education and SBE, members of the State Senate may be interested in addressing the issue of English Learner reclassification criteria with the goal of moving towards standardized criteria to be used by school districts across the state.

Per current state law, the standardized reclassification procedures for English Learners include 1) Assessment of English language proficiency using the state test of English language development; 2) Teacher evaluation inclusive of a review of the student’s curriculum master; 3) Parent opinion and consultation, inclusive of a review of student data, and at which time the parent is provided opportunity to opine and question; and 4) Comparison of student performance in basic skills on an academic content assessment. Because the ESSA requirements prohibit states from using performance on an academic content assessment for the purposes of reclassification criteria, the CDE has submitted a proposal to the State Legislature to remove Item 4 for the 2018-19 school year once the ELPAC is fully operational.

It may also be possible that the Legislature incorporates into this discussion the entry criteria for identifying students as English Learners, and whether there are ways to improve the existing Home Language Survey.

While it is premature to assume the direction the Legislature may take on this issue, school administrators with expertise on this topic are encouraged to provide comments to the ACSA Government Relations staff regarding on the existing reclassification criteria and process used at the local level. To provide feedback, please contact Martha Alvarez, ACSA Legislative Advocate, at malvarez@acsa.org.

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