Superintendent: ELLs Making Gains in LA Schools

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy sent a memo to the district’s board of trustees recently outlining the academic gains by English Language Learners within recent years.

The memo to the district’s board was dated May 31, and was entitled, “Next Three Years: Policy and Investment.” The school district enrolls the largest number of ELLs in the nation, according to the memo. It began redesigning its program for ELLs in 2010.

He wrote that “far fewer” elementary school ELLs are testing at the “Below Basic” and “Far Below Basic” English proficiency levels. The percentage of students testing at those low proficiency levels dropped from 37 percent to 26 percent. At the secondary level, there was an 8 percent drop in students scoring at the lower levels.

California has struggled with long term English Language Learners who have been in the school system for six years or more, but still have not become English proficient. The district’s new master plan for addressing ELLs takes this into account. Two courses have been created at the middle and high school levels addressing the student population. Students receive targeted help with improving their reading and language skills, guided by testing data.

As part of the plan, 750 special education teachers were trained on strategies to use with ELLs with special needs.

The Learning the Language blog reported that Los Angeles revamped its program after an enforcement action by the U.S. Department of Education. California is also now beginning to track data on long term ELL students.

Related Links:

– Memo from John Deasy re ELLs.

– “L.A. Unified Improves English-Learner Outcomes, Superintendent Says,” Learning the Language Blog, Education Week.

– “Memo touts progress on safety, suspensions, and English Learners,” LA School Report.

– “California Eyes Tracking Long-Term English Language Learners,” Latino Ed Beat.

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L.A. Parents Use “Parent Trigger” To Create Unusual New School Plan

Empowered by California’s “parent trigger” law, the parents at one elementary school cast their votes Tuesday in an unusual election.

They were deciding whether the struggling 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles should remain in the L.A. Unified School District, break away and be run by a charter school operator–or opt for an unusual combination of the two.

While public school districts and charter schools often compete to enroll the same students, the parents took the unusual step, and 80% opted for merging both models together.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the parents voted for L.A. Unified to handle the kindergarten through fourth grades, and the charter school to handle grades five through eight. Parents will also participating in the hiring process for new staff.

The majority of the children at the school are Latino, and the vote gave voice to many of the Spanish-speaking immigrant parents. That was reflected during the vote. However, they did not work alone. The campaign was largely organized by the group Parent Revolution.

The Times reported that the vote, which took place in a park, had a festive atmosphere and included face painting, piñata and tamales.

“I’ve seen the struggle of some parents here that they’ve gone through so many problems with their children,” parent Esmerelda Chacon told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m very , very happy with the results we got.”

The California law allows a majority of parents at a failing school to petition seeking reforms, including replacing the principal and much of the staff to closing the school.

So far, the parent trigger concept has proved to be controversial. In Florida, for example, the debate has raged over whether the law reflects an effort to privatize education by converting public schools into charter schools run by companies.

It remains to be seen whether putting parents in charge of a school can be an effective turnaround model. But it’s an experiment many are setting their hopes on.

Related Links:

– “Parents choose LAUSD, charter school to run Jefferson Park campus,” The Los Angeles Times.

– “Parents choose unique school takeover model in ‘trigger’ vote,” Hechinger Report. 

– “Florida Senate revises ‘parent trigger’ proposal,” The Tampa Tribune. April 11. 

Budget Cuts in Los Angeles Could Affect Teachers, Early Ed and Adult Ed

The Los Angeles Unified School District school board has approved a budget that would eliminate thousands of jobs, make cuts to early education programs and also close adult education campuses. In 2010, about 73% of the school district’s 677,538 students were Latino.

The Los Angeles Times reported that there were many protesters at the board’s meeting on Tuesday when the vote occurred. Many of them were adult ed students. The district provided English as a second language and citizenship preparation courses to thousands of immigrant parents. Many districts regard adult basic education classes as a way to encourage more parent involvement in their children’s education.

Evans Community Adult School English teacher Marc Yablonka told the newspaper that such cuts would make immigrants’ transition more difficult. “There will be limited places where they can learn the language that will propel them to a more solid place in our society,” he said. “Learning English is the vehicle for that.”

The Times also reported that early education programs would face deep cuts as well and would have to operate based on the revenue they generate.

The $6 billion dollar budget approved by board members isn’t final, and district officials are hopeful they can find money others ways to fund programs, for example if voters approve a tax initiative and furlough agreements can be made with teacher unions.