California fails its English Language-Learners yet again

I recently had a student who dropped my SAT class about halfway through.  Frankly, I didn’t blame her, since she started off scoring in the first percentile on her first practice test and was still in the first percentile by her third (started at about 630, third test scored about 800).  Fortunately, there were only four people in the class, so she did participate in the lessons quite a bit.  That said, she rarely did her homework.

She also is what we classify as an English-Language Learner, and is a junior in an decent local high school.  That said, what I found absolutely shocking is that she has actually been in ESL classes since the FOURTH GRADE.

This means she’s been in ESL classes for at least EIGHT YEARS!!!  I have to wonder how freaking SHITTY a job her school is doing at teaching her English and/or integrating her into the larger community if it can’t transition her out of these classes in half that time!

Anyway, I find her situation shocking and absolutely appalling.  I don’t care how talented or untalented she might be — if her school finds it necessary to keep her in ESL classes at this point, it has simply failed to educate her.

Unfortunately, a recent study by Californians Together demonstrates that my student is one of thousands whom our schools have failed to serve.  This study found that FIFTY-NINE PERCENT of ELLs in high schools have been in US schools for more than six years without achieving a sufficient level of English proficiency to be classified as fluent.  (Please see the article in Education Week here.

“Long-term English-language learners can literally talk circles around new arrivals and can perform well in an English-as-a-second-language class simply by showing up,” she said. “It’s when it comes to the more rigorous academic language and literacy that students really struggle, and there aren’t programs that target that need in a way that is different from the instruction provided to all ELLs.”

Basically, students like mine are in an educational no-man’s land: they kick ass in their ESL classes, but fail miserably when integrated.  I would suspect that these students’ teachers in classes like history pass them through, despite the fact that they can’t write worth shit.  Therefore, these students keep getting passed through until they get that diploma — or, unfortunately, they go through a decade of our schools and then fail the CAHSEE, and actually don’t get the diploma.

The SAT has many detractors, but you can’t fudge the numbers in your favor — scoring 210 in Math, Reading, and Writing demonstrates that a student is completely unable to succeed in American society.  It’s appalling that our schools lie to our ELLs, pretending they’re prepared for real life, instead relying on the CAHSEE and SAT to tell the students they’re totally fucked.


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