Los Angeles Daily News
March 19 2004
LAUSD English learners gaining
Fluency scores show progress
By Jennifer Radcliffe
Students learning English as a second language in the Los Angeles
Unified School District made huge gains on the state’s
English-fluency exam and have nearly caught up with their peers
across California, officials said Thursday.
About 42 percent of LAUSD students who speak a language other than
English at home scored in the top two levels of the California
English Language Development Test, compared with about 29 percent
Statewide, 43 percent of English-learning students received the top
scores this year, compared with 34 percent in 2003.
“This is just further evidence that we’re really a district on the
move,” school board member Marlene Canter said.
When the test debuted three years ago, only 16 percent of LAUSD
students were considered proficient, compared with 25 percent
Los Angeles Unified has put an emphasis on helping these students
achieve and that effort must continue, board President Jose Huizar
“English-language learners make up 40 percent of our students. If
they succeed, LAUSD succeeds,” he said.
More than 1.4 million English-language learners in the state took the
test, including 276,000 in the LAUSD.
Nearly 95 percent of the LAUSD’s English-language learners have
Spanish as their native language. The next most common languages are
Armenian and Korean.
The test is designed to identify new students who are learning
English, determine their level of fluency and track their progress
Students are separated into five categories: beginning, early
intermediate, intermediate, early advanced and advanced.
Once students reach the early advanced level, they are usually
reclassified as fluent within a year, said Merle Price, deputy
superintendent of instruction.
LAUSD leaders attribute their success to better textbooks, more
teacher training and the implementation of structured reading
“The fact that we’re making this degree of progress is really
remarkable in a district that has the overcrowding we do and the
student population we do,” Superintendent Roy Romer said.
The largest gains in Los Angeles Unified were made at the middle
school level, where the number of students with advanced or early
advanced scores increased from 32 percent to 48 percent.
The number of elementary students in advanced or early advanced
levels increased from 27 percent to 39 percent, and the high school
students gained from 35 percent to 47 percent.
Price said it was open to debate whether the scaling back of
bilingual education mandated by Proposition 227 five years ago
contributed to the impressive gains.
Still, he said that while both bilingual and English-only programs
have their pros and cons, the current system under which most
students are taught primarily in English seems to be working well.
About 10 percent of the LAUSD’s English-language learners receive
waivers to attend bilingual classes and the rest receive most of
their instruction in English.
Price said phonics-based programs, such as Open Court, have helped
all student learn English skills.
“It validates the work we’ve been doing and shows we should stay the
course,” Price said. “That’s something new in education, which is so
full of trends, that we’re on to something that continues to show
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said these
test gains rank among the top 10 educational achievements of the
“Progress is our real goal. By any standard, we are seeing progress,”
he said. “This is just another indicator … that public education in
the state of California is on the right track.”
Jennifer Radcliffe, (818) 713-3722 [email protected]