from California Institute for Federal Policy Research/California Capitol Hill Bulletin Volume 21, Bulletin 15 - http://www.calinst.org/bul2/b2115.shtml
May 29, 2014 :: In a recent report entitled “Pathways to Fluency: Examining the Link Between Language Reclassification Policies and Student Success,” the Public Policy Institute of California published its findings on a survey of school district policies on reclassifying an English Learner (EL) student—one who needs supplemental language support to succeed in school—to English proficient. The study found that outcomes for students reclassified as English proficient are much better than for students who remain ELs. Questions about how quickly EL students should be reclassified, whether reclassification criteria should be standardized, and what the links between reclassification and academic success are framed the study, and ultimately led to policy proposals in the conclusion of the report.
Because Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified are the two largest school districts in the state, and together serve 15% of the state's EL students, the report focused on studying cohorts of students from these two districts as well as examined these districts' policies. Based on their findings, PPIC proposed the following: (1) use the California English Language Development Test (CSELDT) as the sole assessment for reclassification, or otherwise allow districts to use just one test; (2) consider the relative rigor of the reading and writing requirements in designing the new English language development tests; (3) districts should carefully consider whether reclassification standards that are more stringent than the State Board of Education guidelines are necessary, as students tend to benefit from being reclassified sooner; and (4) consider a standardized reclassification policy across school districts.
Given that the state will soon be implementing the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which gives school districts more money for higher numbers of EL students, the study noted that there is more urgent need than ever to ensure that reclassification policies are in the best interest of students. There is some concern that the LCFF incentivizes districts to delay reclassification of EL students to English proficient, though findings suggest that earlier reclassification correlates with better academic outcomes.