State Board of Education approves ‘English Learner Roadmap’ to help more than 1.4 million students

July 21, 2017


During its July meeting, the State Board of Education approved a revolutionary “English Learner Roadmap” to help California’s more than 1,000 school districts welcome, understand, and educate the diverse population of students who are learning English.

In what was an emotional discussion, with comments from the public, the State Board of Education adopted a revised California English Learner Roadmap Policy that replaces the 1998 guidance adopted after the passage of Proposition 227.

The new policy cites four principals for serving EL:

  • Assets-oriented and needs-responsive schools.
  • Intellectual quality of instruction and meaningful access.
  • System conditions that support effectiveness.
  • Alignment and articulation within and across systems.

California has about 1.4 million students – one of every four public school students statewide – classified as English Learners. The Roadmap is the first new language policy adopted in nearly 20 years, removes outdated barriers to bilingual and multilingual instruction, and will help schools meet updated state and federal education laws and requirements.

“This is a terrific step forward to help students in the wonderfully diverse state of California,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “The road map will guide teachers and school districts all across California as they help students on their way to success in 21st century careers and college.”

As a result of the passage of Proposition 58 to expand bilingual education in California, a ballot initiative ACSA supported on the November 2016 ballot, the California Department of Education has initiated a 45-day public comment period on the draft regulations.

State Board President Michael Kirst said passage of the roadmap marks both an end and a beginning. “With this vote, the state puts regressive policies in our past and embarks on a new, inclusive path toward ensuring California’s promise of college and career readiness for all students is fulfilled.”

California voters last year overwhelmingly approved Proposition 58, which removed a number of legal barriers to bilingual learning. The measure will ensure that all students receive the highest quality education, master the English language, and access high-quality and innovative language programs.

Past restrictions date back to 1998, when Proposition 227 passed and placed nearly all English Learner students in English-only classrooms.

Demand for bilingual and multilingual instruction has been growing as proficiency in more than one language helps students compete for college admissions and jobs. For example, high school seniors who demonstrated dual language skills can earn a gold “Seal of Biliteracy” on their diplomas. In the Class of 2016, more than 40,000 students earned the seal, four times the number when the state-authorized program started in 2010.

The English Learner Roadmap will also help California schools comply with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act and the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, both of which require specific assistance so English Learners can meet the same academic standards as other students.

The Roadmap started as a recommendation of Torlakson’s “Blueprint for Great Schools Version 2.0” in 2015. The California Department of Education, with support from the Sobrato Family Foundation and the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, received advice on the recommended policy from over 370 educators during three public meetings. The Roadmap will be available online. For more information, visit the CDE website at https://goo.gl/QmaA9z.

ACSA encourages administrators to review the proposed regulations and to provide comments to Legislative Advocate Martha Alvarez at malvarez@acsa.org by Aug. 31, so they can be incorporated in formal comments. The draft regulations can be found in Item 6 of the July agenda, and accessed at www.cde.ca.gov/be.

Find the latest ACSA legislative news and get involved at www.acsa.org/advocacy.

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