Test-prep methods aid English learners
The measures taken by California schools to improve student scores on standardized tests work just as well for English learners, according to a report released Friday. The report by EdSource, a nonprofit educational research organization, examined 237 California elementary schools of similar size and socioeconomic makeup. EdSource’s researchers found that despite the similarities between the schools, Academic Performance Index (API) scores for their English learner students differed by more than 250 points. Using student assessment data like standardized tests, aligning the school’s curriculum to state standards and setting measurable goals for student achievement were among the practices used by schools with higher-scoring English language learners, said Trish Williams, EdSource executive director. Those were the same factors differentiating overall school API scores that EdSource found during a previous study in 2005. “We happen to consider this good news from the standpoint that for schools that want to do the hard work, English-learner students will benefit as well as non-English-learning students,” said Williams, who was also the study’s project director. “It is a two for one.” Other factors the study found helped English learners perform better on the API were the use of English-immersion techniques in math instruction, and taking students out of class for intensive English as a second language (ESL) classes with a resource teacher. “Our theory is that the quality of English-language development instruction matters more than the number of minutes spent doing it,” said Williams, noting schools that spent more time on English-language development did not benefit as much as those that removed the students from class for more one-on-one instruction. California mandates at least 30 minutes of English Language Development (ELD) instruction, the state’s term for ESL, every day. Garvey School District in Rosemead has some of the higher-performing English- learner students in the San Gabriel Valley, among smaller districts with a majority of low-income students. Its English learners scored on average a 721 on the API, 29 points behind the overall district score of 750. The average gap between English learners and overall scores at similar Valley districts is about 45.3. District Superintendent Virginia Peterson said the district generally places the responsibility of ELD education on regular classroom teachers, though the school does have some pull-out programs where students are taken out of the classroom for more intensive instruction. “We certainly use \ in teaching math,” said Peterson, adding that teachers are well-versed in using “manipulative” techniques – in addition to language techniques – to help make math as concrete as possible. The Pasadena Unified School District separates English learners in grades one through three and places them in English- immersion classrooms as opposed to mainstream classrooms, said Joan Morris, the district’s coordinator for English learner programs. “So we do not have much need for pullout programs except for first-time students in grades four through six,” said Morris, adding that in those cases English learners are pulled out of the classroom to work with a resource teacher. Pasadena’s English learners scored 641 on the API, as opposed to 701 for the entire district. The study’s results showing a correlation between English immersion programs and higher test scores heartened Ron Unz, chairman of English for the Children. “It is nice that the numbers are pointing in our direction,” said Unz, whose group led the drive for Proposition 227, which mandated English immersion as opposed to bilingual education for the state’s students. Unz said that test results showed English-learner scores doubled in four years after passage of Proposition 227. There are more than 1 million English language learners in Southern California, according to state figures. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!