New Legislation a Positive Step for Progress on EL Policy

May 10th, 2016 | By | Category: Advocacy, News
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Jeff Frost


As the 2016 session of the state legislature gets started, three bills have been introduced that CATESOL is watching closely; they should have significant impacts on improving opportunities for English learners.

AB 2350 (Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach) would prohibit English learners (ELs) in middle and high school from being prevented from enrolling in core curriculum courses and courses required for graduation. The bill will also require that courses designed for long-term English learners (LTELs) be offered for graduation credit, and it requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to create a video-based professional-development series on integrated and designated English language development (ELD). Furthermore, AB 2350 makes findings and declarations relative to the achievement gap between English learners and other students and prohibits, with the exception of articulated newcomer programs, a middle or high school student who is an English learner or who is enrolled in an English language–development course from being prevented from either of the following:

  1. Enrolling in core curriculum courses in English language arts or any other course required for graduation or to meet the a-g subject requirements for admission to the University of California (UC) or the California State University (CSU); or
  2. Taking a full course load in core subjects required for graduation to meet the a-g subject requirements for admission to the UC or the CSU.

AB 2350 is cosponsored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the Californians Together Coalition, of which CATESOL is a member.

AB 2785 (O’Donnell) requires the California Department of Education to develop a manual providing guidance to local educational agencies (LEAs) on identifying and supporting English learners with disabilities. Specifically, AB 2785 will do the following:

  1. Require, on or before July 1, 2018, the CDE to develop a manual providing guidance to LEAs on identifying and supporting ELs who qualify for special education services;
  2. States that the goal of the manual is to provide state guidance to educators on the identification and support of ELs with disabilities and to promote a collaborative approach among teachers, school administrators, other personnel, and parents in determining the most appropriate academic placements and supports for these pupils;
  3. Require CDE, in developing the manual, to review manuals produced on this topic by other states, and consult with a stakeholder group comprising experts and practitioners who have expertise or experience in either special education, English learner education, or both.

The bill will require the manual to include all of the following topics: (a) guidance for accurately identifying English learners with disabilities, including guidance on avoiding the overidentification and underidentification of these students; (b) information on second language acquisition and progress; (c) a sample prereferral or intervention program; (d) guidance on referral processes; (e) guidance on the use of assessments, including the use of multiple measures as well as assessment accommodations for both language and disability: and (f) guidance on the development of individualized education programs for English learners.

Finally, SB 1050 (Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles) establishes the K-12 College Readiness Block Grant in an effort to better prepare California’s high school pupils who are traditionally underrepresented in the University of California and the California State University.  The program will focus on:

  1. Preparing teachers, administrators, and counselors with professional development;
  2. Providing counseling services to pupils regarding college admission requirements;
  3. Developing or buying materials that support college readiness;
  4. Developing comprehensive advising plans to support completion of a-g requirements; and
  5. Implementing collaborative partnerships between high schools and postsecondary institutions.

The grants envisioned in SB 1050 will primarily help districts that lack the current sophistication needed to prepare the vast majority of their students for higher education. Additionally, the bill focuses resources on districts that do not necessarily have high concentrations of unduplicated pupils and thus are not receiving large amounts of supplemental and concentration funding. Given the difficulties that districts have funding districtwide programs out of base revenues, SB 1050 grant funding would have a dramatically positive impact on allowing districts with low levels of unduplicated students that receive these grant funds to ramp up college-prep offerings and counseling. The structure of the bill will allow for the broadest number of high school students to be qualified and ready to enroll in either UC or CSU.

These three new bills are a welcome addition to the broader policy discussion in which CATESOL is engaged in the state capital. Closing the achievement gap between California’s English learners and their peers is a central challenge facing our public education system and is the underlying goal of the local control funding formula (LCFF). California’s English learner students score substantially lower on state assessments than non-English learner students, graduate from high school at lower rates, and attend postsecondary institutions at lower rates. While there has been incremental growth in achievement among students in both the general population and English learners, the rate of growth in the general population has significantly outpaced that of English learners. As California districts continue to implement the LCFF and establish policies to improve educational opportunities for English learners, these three new bills will be a welcome addition to the effort.

Jeff Frost is CATESOL’s legislative advocate.


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