Op-Ed: Santa Clara County Schools Need to Rethink Dual-Immersion Language Classes

If school districts in Santa Clara County really cared about teaching their English learners English and keeping them on track for success in college and their careers, they would jettison the current system of perpetual language immersion and flawed instruction.

Data visualized for the recently completed Santa Clara County Academic Olympics demonstrate that the best local districts can do in preparing 11th grade English learners for success in college English is about one quarter meeting or exceeding state standards in 2017, with most districts in the single digits. San Jose Unified School District, for example, can only manage to get 6 percent  of their 11th grade English learners meeting or exceeding state standards in 2017 and only 3 percent in mathematics.

Why do English learners perform so poorly in both English and math? School districts in this county employ a system of teaching English that prolongs language learning from six to eight years using the soft rationale of preserving native language and culture.

“Dual immersion” classes provide the opportunity for already entitled white students to learn Spanish while extending English learning for students who are learning it as a second language for up to eight years. While it is admirable for school districts to promote bilingualism, it is truly a second-tier approach that mainly does a disservice to the majority minority group in San Jose—Hispanics pupils—at the expense of quality language instruction for numerous other second-language groups.

The primary purpose of schools is to prepare all students for success in college and career. For English learners, this means learning both social and academic English as quickly as possible in order to stay on track for success in English language arts and mathematics. This imperative should create a sense of urgency on the part of principals, district leaders and teachers rather than the current relaxed pursuit of all manner of “culturally sensitive” approaches to language learning within the suffocating fog of English learner education.

The current zeitgeist for English learner education is quite complicated and bureaucratic and built upon the notion that it will take at least six years for English learners to gain enough English to be academically successful.

If your system includes “dual immersion” classes where students hear their native language 75 percent of the time, where other English-as-a-second-language students engage in only 30 minutes of daily English development classes, and where regular classroom teachers use a self-selected potpourri of instructional strategies for English-learning students, then you can expect that it will take up to eight years for our English-learning students to learn English.

We need to think differently about the acquisition of English by students who learn it as their second language. School districts in Santa Clara County should develop, implement, monitor and evaluate a rigorous and intensive plan for ensuring that all English-learning students achieve fluency within two years or less while participating in a 12-month intensive program with continuous access to grade level academic content.

Santa Clara County might look to Canada where they have adopted a powerful system to support language acquisition and academic achievement. In this system, English learners maintain close contact with grade level academic content while they intensively learn their new language. Canadian English-learning students acquire the language at a rate twice as fast as in the United States. The new plan for South Bay schools could also include the incorporation of successful technology solutions for learning English such as Rosetta Stone. It is not impossible to imagine our English-learning students being able to acquire the language in a short time.

Good news: the data show that students who have been reclassified as fluent or proficient are more successful in achieving grade level standards in both math and English. Data from the Academic Olympics demonstrate that students in grades five, eight and 11 who achieve fluency perform comparably, or even outperform the overall student population within Santa Clara County school districts.

There is hope!

However, only a small percentage of English-learning students are reclassified annually. Only about 15 percent of English learning students in the county are reclassified each year, which would ultimately meet the extended six-to-eight-year goal of making all of them achieve fluency or proficiency.

With lackadaisical district English-learning professional practices, a low reclassification rate is unsurprising. Complicating the issue is the byzantine and overly bureaucratic process required for reclassifying students. An English-learning student would have to be Houdini in order to extricate themselves from the system to become classified as proficient. Students have to meet high criteria for fluency, or proficiency. Under the current standards, they must:

  • Achieve high levels of performance on four language proficiency criteria
  • Perform academically at the same level as their peers
  • Gain teacher approval
  • Gain parent approval

Based upon the prolonged system for supporting English-learning students in acquiring the new language as well as the convoluted process for reclassifying them as at least proficient, one would think that the system is set up to guarantee ongoing federal funding and the protection of jobs.

School district diversion in supporting English language acquisition by parents; failure to allocate federal and local resources in support of English-learning students; and lack of rigor in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs contribute to poor language acquisition and academic achievement.

The families and community must continue to hold school and district professionals accountable for the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of high quality and research-based programs designed to support our English learners. We cannot depend upon the opaque state accountability dashboard. We need to see and monitor easy to understand data on both professional practices, student outcomes and evaluation findings. I have requested this information from the San Jose Unified. I hope that you will step up as well. You can learn more at the School Improvement Big Picture Web site.

Our English learners and their families expect that our school districts ensure that our students actually learn English and stay on track for success in college and career without the need for remediation. We do not have the luxury of giving ourselves eight years to achieve this vision.

We must demand that our district leaders emerge from the fog of English education and begin to act with urgency in support of our children and their families.

Dr. Bill Conrad is an educator who has provided several decades of teaching, administrative, and consulting support to school districts and schools within Santa Clara County and throughout the nation. He specializes in strategic planning and implementation, accountability, assessment, and science education. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. To submit an op-ed, email News Editor Jennifer Wadsworth at [email protected].

27 Comments

  1. > School districts in this county employ a system of teaching English that prolongs language learning from six to eight years using the soft rationale of preserving native language and culture.

    Bill:

    I have two hypotheses:

    1. The education establish thinks that “English learners” are too dumb and stupid to learn English in less than eight years, even with the benefit of the magnificent and scientifically based instructional methods of California’s well-trained, credentialed, and highly compensated public school teachers.

    2. If “English learners” learned English in two years instead of eight years, many of California’s well-trained, credentialed, and highly compensated public school teachers would not be needed for teaching English to “English learners”, and would therefore have to find jobs, and generous healthcare and retirement packages on other lines of work.

    What’s your take? Hypothesis 1 or hypothesis 2?

    Or, are we misusing science for purposes it was never intended for?

  2. Hello SJ,

    I can always count on you to get to the heart of the matter. I do believe that both of your hypotheses are in play as it relates to a District’s theory of action as to how to best support its English Learners and also the preservation of jobs and the continual infusion of Title III funds into the Districts.

    District leaders rely upon case study research conducted by researchers such as Kenji Hakuta from Stanford who argue for an up to 7 year window to get English Learners up to speed on acquiring English to be successful in their academic classes. Of course, the big assumption here is that the Districts are using the most powerful instructional techniques to teach English Learners. And we see how that goes with placing EL students in Dual Immersion classes where their native language is spoken 75% of the time. Also ELD classes generally employ teachers doing most of the talking and that is mostly in the native language of the students. So it becomes a self-fulfilling conclusion that it will take a long time to get our ELs up to speed. My previous comment identifies some great work going on in Canada where it takes only 1/2 of the U.S. time to get ELs up to speed in terms of language and academics.

    I think that your second hypothesis is a stronger one. EL instruction is a cash cow for our districts. For example, I worked in Santa Clara Unified School District who were sanctioned by the State for not allocating Federal Title III $ to its schools as required by law so that the District administration could use the $ for pet projects like technology purchase etc. The District did not even hire a full time director to oversee the spending of the Title III funds. A lot of energy and funds are directed toward bureaucratic nonsense to make sure all of the appropriate forms are filled completed primarily by the teachers and overseen by classified staff. Instead of curriculum and improved instructional practice for Els, districts expend human and material resources on these bureaucratic boondoggles – assumedly to maintain staff and keep the flow of federal $ moving into the District and the maintenance of jobs.

    Rather than take on a sense of urgency to get our ELs up to speed on English and Academics which is their main raison d’ etre, school districts engage in efforts to maintain native language and culture which while may be nice is a diversion from the main charge of school districts as it relates to our ELs. A great deal of energy is also directed in “support” of parents. SJUSD even conducts District Meetings with EL parents in Spanish to accommodate the Spanish speaking families and to the detriment of parents who speak Vietnamese who do not feel welcome to meetings led in Spanish. All of this attention to parents would be nice but it assumes that the Districts are doing a great job of educating our EL students in a timely manner which in general is not happening as the data clearly indicates. First things first! Know thy job rather than wander around in the Fog of English Learner Education.

  3. At a minimum, I will point out that 11th testing data doesn’t disaggregate students in a dual immersion program from those recently arrived in this country or who have neve been in a dual immersion program. Additionally, in San Jose Unified, students who participate in dual immersion programs are reclassified at higher rates than their English only peers. So, in this instance, that 11th grade statistic is meaningless when it comes to this question. It’s a disturbing data point, but the wrong question.

    Anyone interested in actually having a conversation with school districts about how English language learners are instructed and reclassified, should consider attending a school board meeting and asking for answers from this group people elected to serve the community. Because, if you were not satisfied with the answer and you really care about the issue, that is the place to demand change.

    • > Anyone interested in actually having a conversation with school districts about how English language learners are instructed and reclassified, should consider attending a school board meeting and asking for answers from this group people elected to serve the community. Because, if you were not satisfied with the answer and you really care about the issue, that is the place to demand change.

      Oh, right. Their turf, and their forum. AND, you get two minutes to make a statement, while the board members check their text messages.

      Can you provide a SINGLE incidence of where a statement from a citizen changed anything that the education bureaucracies and the unions had already decided?

        • If the Board rules that there are too many people who want to make comments, they can reduce your time to one minute. This happened to me at the DELAC meeting where I was told that I would have one minute to speak to the parents of EL students. There were 3 people who spoke. Jodi Lax, the Director of EL Services, told me to make sure that I spoke slowly to the EL parents assembled. I had generated a variety of data visualizations for the parents but had to pass them out separately due to the lack of time. The District presentation of data amounted to a bureaucratic display of state-generated tiny tables of EL data. The superintendent, Nancy Albarran, was also present but did not take the liberty to speak to the EL parents. She spent most of her time on her phone reviewing texts.

  4. Asking the British people to vote on leaving the EU is like asking them to vote on Einstein”s Theory of Relativity. people just don”t understand what it even is. Even worse, many political commentators don”t seem to understand what it is either. Good writers like Ian MacWhirter and Lesley Ridoch calling for the EU to “do more in Catalonia. Who exactly are they talking about? Which person, in which post? Who? The EU is not a government. There isn”t a Minister of Justice and a Home Secretary and a Head of State And then people say it is “bureaucratic. Well, how could a bureaucracy not be bureaucratic? The Commission is a bureaucracy. That is what it actually is. Like the Civil Service is a bureaucracy. The EU doesn”t have a TV station, or a newspaper or a media group behind it, hence, nobody articulates what it actually does. It”s not a political animal, it”s a bureaucratic animal. The political sovereignty resides entirely within the Nation States they agree upon some common internal rules which the Commission implements and monitors. You guys want to tear that all up, and every country having its own rules and weights and measurements and standards again? Why? What will that change?

  5. Thanks Jennifer. You make excellent points. I have in fact asked SJUSD for a more in depth disaggregation of the student outcome data as well as data supporting the implementation of key elements of the dual language program and other systemic EL professional practices used within the district. It is also important to understand the curriculum that is used within EL programs. School districts like SJUSD will often use special case student performance and adult professional practices to represent systemic improvement when we really need quality systemic data to understand how the system is doing in educating our EL students.

    I have also attended both school board and DELAC meetings where I brought posters of the data as well as celebrations where SJUSD has been making improvement compared with other school districts within Santa Clara. Administrative staff from the School District all but kicked me out of the room as I attempted to share data with attendees at the meeting. So it is not a very welcoming environment. I do agree with you that we should use both the systemic student outcome data and the professional practices data to catalyze a respectful conversation that moves us to a better place as it relates to EL English Language Acquisition and Academic achievement at all grade levels.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. The entire premise of this article is incorrect, and data is thrown around to prove a xenophobic point. When well implemented, dual immersion shows equal or greater academic achievement. Look into the research of Claude Goldenberg or Kenji out of Stanford.

    “students hear their native language 75 percent of the time, where other English-as-a-second-language students engage in only 30 minutes of daily English development classes” —>
    This is also not true and I do not know of an example that follows this structure. The closest model would begin in pre-k or kindergarten with a high percentage in the non-English language, but as the students advance and the rigor increases, it would approach 50-50 or more percentage of time focused on academic English for subject matter expertise.

  7. Yeah, I imagine intensive language learning programs would be of great benefit to ELL students. Hopefully we can get this sort of thing set up soon.

  8. > When well implemented, . . . .

    What happens when things aren’t “well implemented”?

    Remember, the implementation depends on underpaid, undertrained, undersupported, overworked teachers.

  9. Hello M,

    Thanks for responding to the article. Actually, I think that my premise is a good one and I am certainly not a xenophobe for advocating for an EL systems that accelerate the acquisition of English Language and academic achievement for our English Learners. I have carefully read the research of Hakuta and others and find their defense of dual immersion programs to not be persuasive. They depend upon case studies and assumptions about EL learning that are not well supported.

    More importantly, the empirical data from the actual school districts do not support the effectiveness of their own EL teaching and learning system. If the system that includes the structured English Immersion Program, two way-bilingual immersion, Academic Language Acquisition worked then the student outcome data would reflect the overall effectiveness of the EL system within the District. The data however speaks for itself. 44% of 11th grade EL students in SJUSD are the Early Advanced and Advanced Levels on the CELDT test but only 3% meet or exceed standards on the 2017 state Math test and only 6% Meet or Exceed standards on the 2017 State ELA test. If the EL system were effective, and based on the Advanced and Early Advanced status of 11th grade students in SJUSD, one would expect to see much higher performance. There must be a problem with the EL instructional system. Please let me know if I am missing something here. Similar low academic performance can be found at the transition grades of 5 and 8 for EL students in San Jose Unified. Please see data visualizations at http://sipbigpicture.com

    If the EL teaching and Learning system were effective in San Jose Unified, one would expect a higher rate of reclassification because if the EL systems were effective. The data shows that our Reclassified students score comparably or better than the overall student population in SJUSD and most other school districts in SCC. But only about 15% of County EL students are reclassified each year in the county and only about 13% in SJUSD. This rate should be much higher in highly effective systems. Please tell me where I am wrong here.

    I think that we need to take a serious look a the Canadian EL Instructional system and begin to adopt the elements of this system with careful professional development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. What do you think?

    I am also a bit offended by your characterization of me as a xenophobe because I advocate for rigorous English Language and Academic Achievement curriculum, instructional and assessment systems for our EL students. I am married to a beautiful Asian woman who came to this country not knowing very much English but who took English Language Acquisition courses at Laney College, matriculated into the University of California at Berkeley, attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering as well as a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering at San Jose State and who now works as Circuit Designer for a well known Tech Company making 6 figures.

    My wife enrolled her two young girls in Oakland Unified School District who insisted that she place her children in the EL program. She refused but OUSD insisted. She enlisted the support of a white person with connections to OUSD who made sure that her children were placed directly into mainstream classes. Yes there was a bit of groaning and gnashing of teeth as the girls struggled the first year with every night assistance in language acquisition from a tutor. One of the girls is now a PhD graduate student at the University of San Diego and the other girl is finishing up her pharmacy degree at UCSF. Not too bad for an immigrant family! I know that this is a special case and not representative of the system but it is a nice story so I thought I would tell it. I am definitely not xenophobic and have fought for children of color, English Learners and Economically Disadvantaged Students throughout my 40 year educational career.

    Thanks again for responding to my article.

    • > I am definitely not xenophobic and have fought for children of color, English Learners and Economically Disadvantaged Students throughout my 40 year educational career.

      Bill:

      The accusation of “xenophobia” was a passive-aggressive attack on you personally right out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.

      My advice is … don’t accept their attack but rather question the attackers’ intellectual shallownewss and personal viciousness.

      In theory, personal attacks violate SJI’s “Comments Policy”, but the enforcement of the policy has been timid.

      • Thanks for the great advice San Jose Outside the Bubble. When people can not make cogent counter-arguments that are defensible and supported with evidence, they often depend on the use of logical fallacies such as ad hominem attacks (many times passive) to support their vacuous assertions. As you say a lack of intellectual depth and ability to argue rigorously.

  10. Thank you thank you thank you!!!! I have been saying this since my kids started at Willow Glen Elementary School 17 years ago and Spanish-speaking students were in the ALA (Academic Language Acquisition) program. It got worse when they expanded the two-way bilingual immersion program to WGE. Rosa Molina, the architect of the TWBI program, told Spanish-speaking parents that it was better for THEIR children to delay learning a second language, while telling English-speaking parents it was better for THEIR children to immerse in a second language as soon as possible. For years, parents asked for data from the school district to show the actual English competency of Spanish-speaking children immersed in English-language classes (particularly at the brown bag lunches and the Voluntary Integration Committee meetings) and were denied access to the data. Why, might you ask, did SJUSD persist in the TWBI program? Money. It enabled SJUSD to spend money targeted for English-language-learners on English-speaking-students!!

    • Thanks for your insights Andrea. I think that you have really identified the root cause problem. The main focus of any school district should be to ensure that all students stay on track for success in college and career especially in the academic areas of English Language Arts, mathematics, and science. It is imperative that our English Learners acquire both social and academic English as soon as possible in order to engage in mainstream classes where they are exposed to grade level content. It does a disservice to our EL students to prolong their ability to learn English by participating in dual immersion classes. It also does a disservice to English-only students to slow their access to grade level content. We should be looking at systems like the ones being used in Canada where they reclassify EL students in under 3 years.

      While it is a valuable goal to encourage bilingualism for both or English Learners and our English-only students, it should not be done in ways that do not interfere with the main goal of our schools to prepare all students for success in college and career. Bilingualism should be a second-tier goal for students and their families.

      The resistance of the SJUSD administration to provide comprehensive, clear, open, and transparent data to students, families and the community is very problematic. Currently, the district is hiding behind a bogus state dashboard accountability system that unbelievably gives SJUSD a yellow color (Progressing) for English Learner academic achievement. However, when you actually look at the data for EL students, in almost every grade for ELA and Math, they are performing in the single digits as it relates to the percentage of EL students meeting or exceeding standards at almost every grade level. In my view, this does not deserve a yellow or progressing score on the state dashboard.

      You can see 3 years of SJUSD ELA and Math State test data in easily interpretable data visualizations in the Data Visualizations page at http://sipbigpicture.com. I will continue to work with the District to fight for the data that will help inform the success or lack of success of various EL programs in SJUSD. The children, parents, and community deserve this information. For goodness sake, we are the heart of Silicon Valley that lives and breathes data. We should expect a full, complete, open, and transparent visualization of key data for our school district. Currently we are a mediocre district as it relates to academic achievement. We can do better.

      We should also be collecting and visualizing data on the systematic implementation of key professional practices within the district. The District has gotten away with using special case presentations as a proxy for system implementation of both student outcomes and professional practices. This is going to change as long as I live within the boundaries of this school district.

      Your conclusion that much of the resistance to seeing program evaluation results as well as student outcomes is really part of a larger problem in the district protecting jobs and using federal funds to support English-only students. Based upon my experiences as an Assessment Coordinator in Santa Clara Unified, I can see the same patterns of chicanery. In SCUSD, the district administration failed to allocate Title III $ to its schools as required by law and used the money instead to fund all manner of District diversions. Additionally, they had developed a paper and pencil system for monitoring EL student advancement that kept teachers tied up in bureaucratic nonsense and very much slowed the reclassification of EL students guranateeing the flow of federal $ and the protection of jobs. This skullduggery seems also to be in play in SJUSD. It must be exposed and rectified as soon as possible. I will continue to work with the community to support this transformation.

      Again, thanks for your insights and support for the work. Our students, families, and community deserve a transformation of EL teaching and learning within our school district.

  11. Spanish is a native language? Should we not be teaching Olone or Apache or Cherokee,or one of the other 500 tongues that divided pre-columbian America. Last time I looked Spanish came from Spain a white european country that oppressed the New World just like the English did.
    I’m just dying to learn calculus in Mohican!

  12. It should be remembered that the data used to support the key ideas within this article represent the performance of different cohorts (groups) of EL students over time. It is valid to look at the improvement or performance of the school district over time to determine how well it ensures that its EL students at different grade levels meet or exceed state standards even though we are sharing the data about different EL students over time. For example, if 50% of your EL students are at the Advanced or Approaching Advanced Levels in grade 8, we can expect that 100% of these 50% to meet or exceed Math or ELA standards. However, most school districts in SCC Fall well below this benchmark.

    The gold standard of the work would be to follow the performance of EL students who have been continuously enrolled in SJUSD over time. We could determine the types of EL programs that they participated in and then also look at their rate of reclassification over time and their academic performance over time. This is what we would call a Growth Measure and it is another measure and indicator of the success or lack of success of the EL programs in SJUSD.

    Even this data would need to parsed into students who were strong in their first language versus students who were not and also the level of language development of the students when they were first classified as ELs.

    Of course all of this data is available to SJUSD and of course it should be reported to students, parents, families, and communities on a regular basis but it is not as the districts now have the opaque State Accountability Dashboard. I have requested this data from SJUSD but so far I have not gotten any response. I am not surprised.

    Of course, the most scientific way to determine whether the EL programs in SJUSD are working is to conduct a randomized study where some random EL students are placed in the programs and some are not and them compare performance over time. This cannot be done though as it would deprive a cohort of EL students educational services.

    Additionally, it would be important to identify the key practices for each EL program and continuously measure the extent and quality of implementation of these practices in order to make a real determination of the effectiveness of the programs.

    Of course, all of this would be a lot of work and that is what one would expect from a very high performing school district. SJUSD for one isn’t quite there YET!

    • Re: Santa Clara County Schools Need to Rethink Dual-Immersion Language Classes

      Mr. Conrad is uninformed about the 30+ years of consistent research on the development of English language proficiency and the reading and math achievement of English learners. His response exemplifies the misunderstood perspective that initiated Proposition 227 English for the Children in California and similar laws in Arizona and Massachusetts. Recently, California (and Massachusetts) have overturned these laws in favor of an approach that promotes bilingualism in English learners and native English speakers.

      The research is clear and consistent. According to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences report published in 2017, which examined all of the research on English learners:

      “Syntheses of evaluation studies that compare outcomes for English learners (ELs) instructed in English-only programs with outcomes for ELs instructed bilingually find either that there is no difference in outcomes measured in English or that ELs in bilingual programs outperform ELs instructed only in English. Two recent studies that followed students for sufficient time to gauge longer-term effects of language of instruction on EL outcomes find benefits for bilingual compared with English-only approaches.” (p. 280)

      In addition, recent studies in California by Stanford Professor Sean Reardon found that:

      “ELs in bilingual/DL programs have a higher long-term likelihood of becoming proficient in English, meeting an English language arts threshold, and being reclassified relative to ELs in English only programs” (Umansky & Reardon, 2014).

      “By seventh grade, students in DI [dual immersion] and TB [transitional bilingual] have much higher ELA [English language arts] scores than those in EI [English instruction] classrooms… test scores of ELs in DI programs far outpace those of ELs in other programs” (Valentino & Reardon, 2015).

      Similar findings were reported in a recent Rand study supported by the Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, used random assignment in seven cohorts of students to English mainstream vs. dual immersion via a lottery system so they could “isolate the causal effect of dual-langauge immersion on student performance in mathematics and reading” (Steele, Slater, Zamarro, et al, 2017).

      All of these studies demonstrate that when we compare English learners in dual immersions to their peers enrolled in English mainstream classes on tests of proficiency and achievement in English, those in dual immersion either score similar to their peers or well above their peers. So, there is no detriment to English learners enrolled in dual immersion. In fact, there is a clear advantage in three ways. First, students in dual immersion become bilingual and biliterate – that is, able to read and write at grade level in two languages. Second, research that actually follows English learners in dual immersion who become reclassified fluent English proficient (RFEP) close the achievement gap or score higher than native English speakers in English mainstream programs. Third, research on the brain clearly shows that bilingualism is associated with cognitive advantages.

      If we base our educational decisions on research rather than hearsay, we must conclude that dual language immersion provides a substantial benefit for English learners.

      Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, San Jose State University

  13. Bill,
    What’s the bottom line on SC english speaking students verse the national standard if there is such a thing verse students stuck in a bilingual program?

    • Hello M.T. ,

      A landmark study of California ELs in 2000 found students in both bilingual and sheltered English programs typically took three to five years to become proficient in oral English and five to seven years to become proficient in academic English. This timeline is still generally considered standard for EL educators.

      A 2015 study by Education Northwest of ELs entering kindergarten in Washington state found that half reached proficiency in 3.8 years, but 18 percent of the students were not proficient within eight years. The timelines varied significantly by the English level students had upon entering kindergarten, and also by their home language.

      For example, Korean-speaking students reached proficiency on average in less than three years, while Spanish-speaking students took on average more than four years. However, the study did not have enough data to suggest why ELs of different language groups had different rates of learning English.

      “It seems like it would be more difficult for a Chinese speaker to learn English than a Spanish speaker, but it doesn’t always hold true,” said Jason Greenberg Motamedi, an Education Northwest senior researcher and the author of the study.

      Also, many of the EL programs within Canada can reclassify EL students in 3 years which is about 1/2 the rate for U.S. schools. I referred to this report in my original article.

      Hope that this helps.

  14. Just finished a letter to SJUSD School Board President!

    Ms Ellenberg:

    I have not heard yet from Mr. Allen.

    After my most recent article in San Jose Inside, I seek to follow up after my initial request for a deeper dive into English Learner Performance in San Jose Unified. I would like to be able to answer the following questions for my next article:

    What is the rate of reclassification of English Learners in San Jose Unified School District by District, by School, by grade, by ethnicity, by Students with Disability overall and by subcategory, by initial overall CELDT/ELPAC performance level, by initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest Performance Level, by years in District, by years in the School, by participation in specific SJUSD English Learner program, by Gifted Program, by Discipline, by Attendance?

    What is the progression of performance on CELDT/ELPAC overall and by subtest of English Learners in San Jose Unified School District by District, by School, by grade, by ethnicity, by Students with Disability overall and by subcategory, by initial overall CELDT/ELPAC performance level, by initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest Performance Level, by years in District, by years in the School, by participation in specific SJUSD English Learner program, by Gifted Program, by Discipline, by Attendance?

    What is the academic performance of English Learners in ELA, Mathematics, and Science on State and District Tests by District, by School, by grade, by ethnicity, by Students with Disability overall and by subcategory, by initial overall CELDT/ELPAC performance level, by initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest Performance Level, by years in the District, by years in the School, by participation in specific English Language program, by Gifted Program, by Discipline, by Attendance?

    What is the graduation rate of English Learners by District, by School, by grade, by ethnicity, by Students with Disability overall and by subcategory, by initial overall CELDT/ELPAC performance level, by initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest Performance Level, by years in District, by years in the School, by participation in specific SJUSD English Learner program, by Gifted Program, by Discipline, by Attendance

    What is the graduation rate of English Learners by District, by School, by grade, by ethnicity, by Students with Disability overall and by subcategory, by initial overall CELDT/ELPAC performance level, by initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest Performance Level, by years in District, by years in the School, by participation in specific SJUSD English Learner program, by Gifted Program, by Discipline, by Attendance ?

    What is the discipline rate (Suspensions and Expulsions) of English Learners by District, by School, by grade, by ethnicity, by Students with Disability overall and by subcategory, by initial overall CELDT/ELPAC performance level, by initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest Performance Level, by years in District, by years in the School, by participation in specific SJUSD English Learner program, by Gifted Program,by Attendance .

    In order to conduct this Growth study, I will need you to send me 13 years in separate files for each year of anonymized individual student data with unique identifiers with the following information for each anonymous student:
    District
    Year
    Anonymized Unique Student Identifier
    School
    Grade
    Ethnicity
    Student with Disability
    Subcategory of Student with Disability
    Initial CELDT/ELPAC overall performance level upon entering the District
    Annual CELDT/ELPAC overall scale score upon entering the District
    Initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest performance level upon entering the District (Separate column for each subtest)
    Initial CELDT/ELPAC subtest scale score upon entering the District (Separate column for each subtest)
    Annual CELDT/ELPAC overall performance level
    Annual CELDT/ELPAC overall scale score
    Annual CELDT/ELPAC subtest performance level (Separate column for each subtest)
    Annual CELDT/ELPAC subtest scale score (Separate column for each subtest)
    Annual State Math Test performance level
    Annual State Math Test scale score
    Annual State ELA Test performance level
    Annual State ELA Test scale sore
    Annual State Science Test performance level
    Annual State Science Test scale score
    District Local Benchmark data in ELA, Math, Science, and English Language Acquistion
    Years in District
    Years in School
    Participation in specific SJUSD English Language Program (Separate Column for each Program)
    Gifted Program
    Special Education Program
    Exit Code
    Entrance Code
    Attendance Rate % for the Year (Number of Days attended/Total possible days)
    Suspensions (Days suspended from school)
    Expulsions (Days expelled from school)
    Reclassification Status Overall
    Reclassification status for each reclassification criteria (Separate Column for each criteria)

    Also if you have any data on specific professional practices within each of the EL programs that would be most helpful as well. For example, what are the key professional practices used within a given EL program? What are the quality indicators for these practices? What is the Percentage of teachers performing at quality levels within each professional practice for each program by District, by school, and by grade? If you have aggregate teacher evaluation data (Danielson?) for teachers within EL programs that you could share by District, by school, and by grade, I would appreciate that data as well.

    We are going to go way beyond the very minimal requirements of the state accountability system to give our students, families, and community a complete, comprehensive, open, and transparent view of English Learner Performance as well as Professional practices performance within SJUSD. Our community deserves it! Don’t you think?

    Thank you. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions or need additional information.

    Dr. Bill Conrad
    Resident of San Jose
    621 Fuller Avenue
    San Jose, CA. 95125
    510-761-2007

  15. Hello Kathryn,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to the article. However, I do not appreciate the ad hominem attack in calling me uninformed as I have 40 years of experience in education and I also have a doctorate. I am well aware of the research. I never advocated for an English-only approach in the article only that the version of Dual Immersion and Bilingual Education practiced within Santa Clara County School Districts is not working as you can clearly see from the evidence that I have painstakingly organized in my web site: http://sipbigpicture.com. The facts clearly tell the story.

    As is the case in education, we often have a tendency to identify programs within education without taking the time to clearly define the curriculum and the practices that make up the programs like dual immersion. So research on the program often has a wide set of practices that are incorporated into the program and it is difficult to determine consistency and degree of implementation of those practices at a high quality within the programs.

    The Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Department’s research agency, identified rigorous evidence that the following teaching practices are effective in teaching academic content to ELs:
    – Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively, over several days and a variety of activities.
    -Integrate instruction in spoken and written English into content-area teaching, such as using science laboratory reports to teach writing in English.
    – Provide ongoing, structured chances to develop writing skills.
    – Provide small-group interventions for students struggling with specific problems in literacy or language development.

    Hakuta in 1997 identified and more importantly defined the following practices to support language
    acquisition and academic achievement by English Learners:
    -teachers provided explicit skill instruction,
    -student-directed activities,
    -instructional strategies that enhanced understanding, opportunities to practice, systematic student assessment, and
    -a balanced curriculum either alone or in combination.

    I think that it would be more important to conduct research that identifies the effects of these specific practices in teaching English Learners academic content rather than a broad poorly defined and implemented “Dual Immersion Program” that only contributes to the current fog of education. It appears that provinces in Canada are expert in implementing these practices as they are able to reclassify their English Learners in 1/2 the time as in the United States a I have previously reported in my article.

    So the problem really revolves around the successful implementation of a well-defined set of research-based instructional practices for our English Learners that are also monitored for implementation at a high quality level. This is not what is going on in Santa Clara County as only about 15% of students are reclassified per year and the academic performance of ELs is very low compared to the % of students at Advanced and Early Advanced levels.

    Your assertion that brain research supports improved cognitive functioning for ELs that participate in dual immersion programs is also in some doubt as well. Cognitive and neuroscience studies suggest that fully bilingual students can switch between cognitive tasks faster than monolingual students. However, a 2014 analysis in the journal Psychological Science found that studies between 1999 and 2012 that found a link between bilingualism and executive control were more likely to be published than those that found either no effect or a negative result. This suggests that journals may be more willing to publish studies that find bilingual benefits.

    In the coming weeks, I will analyze 13 years of cohort data from SJUSD to identify the rate of reclassification, language acquisition, and academic achievement for English Learners who have participated in bilingual and dual immersion programs in SJUSD to gain some better insights into how well these “programs” perform. It may well be that they do not incorporate all or many of the practices that have been shown to improve EL student language acquisition and academic achievement. But we shall see. Of course, it is not a controlled scientific study but it will meet the requirements as a strong indicator of the effectiveness of these programs from an empirical perspective.

    Again, I would recommend that you refrain from impugning my knowledge about the research regarding ELs. It does not befit an emeritus professor from San Jose State University.

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