California English Language Learner Laws

Instructor: Rachelle Fobbs

Rachelle has a MS in Forensic Science. She has extensive crime lab experience which includes training and testimony as an expert witness.

In this lesson, you will learn about California English language learner laws and the programs designed to help non-native students learn and understand English.

In 2015-16, approximately 1.3 million children of California's public school students did not speak English as their first language. Over 70% of these students are in elementary school. To accommodate these students, California has passed several laws and initiated several programs to increase the English proficiency of these students.

What is an English language learner?

An English language learner (ELL) is a student who has been exposed to a language other than English and his or her English skills are not developed enough to participate in a regular classroom setting. Most ELLs in California are immigrants or migrants whose native language is Spanish. Many students are deemed English language learners because their parent or guardian lists another language on the home language survey given to newly enrolled students at the beginning of each school year.

English Language Assessment Tests

Students' English proficiency is determined by the California English Language Development Test, which rates students in listening, speaking, reading, and writing English and places them in five categories: beginning, early intermediate, intermediate, early advanced, and advanced. The purpose of this test is to identify new English language learners, determine their level of English proficiency, and monitor their progress each year until they learn English. Parents can not opt out of their child taking this test --it is mandated by federal and state law. In 2018, California will begin using a new test called The English Language Proficiency Assessments for California.

Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act was passed in 2015 and replaced the previous No Child Left Behind Act. This new law has substantial meaning for English learners, as it requires states to more carefully measure the progress of ELL students and step in if schools are failing to help them become English proficient. The two major changes from this law are the standardization of criteria across the state for calling a student an English learner and for their reclassification once they have learned English. It also requires that those students are monitored for four years after they are reclassified, whereas they were only monitored for two years under the prior law.

California Education for a Global Economy Initiative

This program, also known as Proposition 58, was passed by CA voters in November 2016 and will take effect on July 1, 2017. Its purpose is to for students to become proficient English and receive the highest level of education to ensure their success later in life. The proposition focuses on the incorporation of language acquisition programs, which are designed to help students become fluent in English as quickly as possible, which will lead to academic achievements in both English and their native language. Parents can now choose the language acquisition program that best suits their child and are more involved in the development and implementation of these programs. The initiative also offers native English-speaking students the opportunity to learn another language. The three main language acquisition programs are described below.

Students in a Classroom

Two-way Immersion

A common method of teaching English and other languages is dual language education, where all classroom instruction is provided in English and a second language. Classrooms are comprised of equal students that are native English speakers and English learners, whose first language is not English. The goal of this method is for all students to be bilingual, which is the ability to read, write and speak two languages fluently. Teaching concepts in two languages helps students maintain their native fluency while learning a second language.

Structured English Immersion

While two-way immersion focuses on instruction in two languages, structured English immersion consists of teaching primarily in English to increase the proficiency of English learners. Instruction is done in 70-90% English and is taught in a different manner than English is taught in regular classrooms. This method looks for teachers who are enthusiastic about structured English immersion, as the attitude of the instructor has an effect on the level of learning the student gains. Structured English immersion programs are the minimum instruction that is required to be offered to English language learner (ELL) students. Beginning on July 1, 2017, students are no longer required to be placed in this program for 30 days before moving to another language acquisition program.

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