Federal Settlement Addresses English Language Learners in CA

(Photo: AP, Rich Pedroncelli)

(Photo: AP, Rich Pedroncelli)

A federal settlement will ensure language education for 1.4 million students considered to be English language learners in the state of California.

New training and monitoring procedures were agreed upon by the state Department of Education and Board of Education in an effort to ensure that language services are offered to English Learner-designated students, allowing them to meet requirements implemented by the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act, as was stated in an agreement with the US Justice Department.

The state has denied any violations and said it was unaware of any wrongdoing in the settlement.

Last year, the Justice Department stated that California had not handled reports from public schools in the state that claimed over 20,000 of the close to 1.4 million English Language Learners had not received adequate instruction in the English language, or in several other subjects.  The allegations state that this took place during the 2007-08 school year, writes Howard Blume for The Los Angeles Times.

“We applaud the state of California for working cooperatively with the Justice Department to ensure that all English Learner students can access the language services they need to learn,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with state officials to implement this important agreement and ensure full compliance in the months ahead.”

Since 1998, English learners were placed in a “structured English immersion” class for at least a year, rather than being taught in their native language.  Instruction and curriculum in the immersion classes are, for the most part, in English, with a few modifications made for students who are not yet fluent.  Students who are found to have a “good working knowledge” of English are then placed in regular classrooms.  Extra help is then offered to these students until it is determined that they are fluent.

Parents who would like their children to be taught in a language other than English are able to apply for a waiver.

However, Proposition 58 would repeal the majority of this plan.  State Sen. Ricardo Lara said the current plan system is flawed and needs to be overturned:

“We have non-educators dictating how we teach, in a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Lara, who worked for two years to bring Prop. 58 to the ballot. “We should give that right back to the teachers, who are the experts.”

Lara added that schools should be helping these students to retain their native languages, adding that doing so would benefit the children as the world becomes increasingly globalized, writes Nanette Asimov for The San Francisco Chronicle.

A Los Angeles judge had ordered the state to ensure all children who do not speak English receive an adequate education in 2014 after numerous reports found 20,000 students throughout 25% of all school districts in the state had not met state or federal requirements.

The ruling was made as a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three Spanish-speaking students in Compton.  The lawsuit argued that language barriers had held the students back a grade and contributed to low test scores.