O.C. English Learners Gain on Stanford 9 Schools

They generally show greater improvement on test than fluent peers, refueling the bilingual education debate.

Here’s what happened to the standardized test scores for a certain bunch of
Cypress students:

The reading scores for fifth- and sixth-graders in this group went from a
dismal 23rd percentile last year–putting them in the bottom quarter of the
nation–to an above-average 53rd percentile this spring.

Small potatoes compared with their third-grade peers. Their math scores
jumped from the 47th percentile to a stellar 70th over the last year.

Who is this impressive group of achievers? They’re the pupils who don’t speak
much English.

A year after California voters all but eradicated bilingual education,
Stanford 9 test scores among children who don’t speak fluent English are
soaring.

Fountain Valley English learners in all grades posted reading gains between
six and 19 percentile points, with even better marks in math.

While still in the bottom third nationwide, reading scores for Magnolia
School District kids learning English have surged from the teens to 20s in
every grade.

Twenty-one of Orange County’s 27 school districts so far have released their
1999 scores on the standardized test, taken by most California schoolchildren.
And those scores pretty consistently show bigger gains among the limited-
English speakers than among their English-fluent colleagues.

The numbers are quickly reigniting the debate over bilingual education.

The forces behind Proposition 227, which banned most bilingual education in
California, are crowing about the leaps in scores since schools started
teaching all children primarily in English.

“If you teach children in English, they will be successful in English,”
said
Santa Ana schoolteacher Gloria Matta Tuchman, coauthor of Proposition 227.
“It
isn’t surprising. What worked at Taft [Elementary, where she teaches] is being
proven [statewide] now–especially in districts that are implementing Prop.
227
as it was intended.”

Others say the answer is far more complicated.

Certainly, kids who can understand the test questions have a better chance of
answering correctly and scoring higher.

But many Orange County schools also devoted intensive educational efforts
toward low-achieving students this year in an effort to bring up their lagging
Stanford scores. Saturday schools for English learners opened. Parents enrolled
in evening classes to learn how to help their kids advance despite language
barriers. Principals invited parents and kids to English-only kaffeeklatsches
and luncheons.

Many Causes for Gains Possible, Experts Say

Some bilingual-education advocates, although pleased with the growth,
fear
that the allure of short-term gains could overshadow the long-range improvement
they feel bilingual programs can provide.

“It’s going to be five or six years before the verdict is in,” said Marianne
Smith, second-language program manager for the Placentia-Yorba Linda school
district, where parents petitioned to retain some bilingual programs. In her
district’s continuing bilingual-education program, she said, growth might be
slower but sustained over more years and ultimately might outpace the English-
only programs.

Of all the arguments about California’s ambitious plan to test students in
the basic skills of reading, math, written expression, spelling, science and
social science, perhaps the fiercest battle involved the 1.4 million
schoolchildren who don’t speak English fluently.

In the second year of administering the Stanford 9 exam to more than 4
million public-school pupils in grades 2 through 11, that debate clearly
persists.

Educators and lawmakers have complained that it’s unfair to torture English
learners with a test that they can’t even read. They groused that the
nationally normed test is out of sync with California’s diversity. Some
protested that the inclusion of students learning English as a second language
dragged down otherwise average scores statewide.

A bill now pending in the state Legislature would exempt certain students who
speak limited English from taking the exam next year.

Amid all the quarreling, the higher scores for students whose native tongue
is not English come as welcome news. But it’s too early to tell whether the
trend will hold true statewide.

Results for all California school districts aren’t expected until Wednesday.
Some districts with heavy immigrant populations–including the behemoth Los
Angeles and Santa Ana school systems–have yet to release their results.

Testing experts caution against attributing score growth to any one factor.

In the second year a test is administered, scores tend to bump upward simply
because students and teachers understand the format better and have seen it
before. The state’s push for smaller class sizes is likely adding to gains
among elementary students. And it’s easier to make big strides from a lower
starting point than a higher one.

“You’d have a very difficult time relating the gains to one specific thing,”
said Ron Dietel, communications director for the federally funded Center for
Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. “It’s a
compilation of factors–one of which could well be related to [Proposition]
227.”

Some of the Orange County districts showing significant gains–Westminster,
Tustin, Cypress and Magnolia among them–never fully embraced bilingual
education in the first place. But they have ramped up their English instruction
post-Proposition 227.

And at least one district boasting of improvement–Placentia-Yorba Linda–
offers parents a choice between revamped bilingual programs and English-only
classes.

Both Sides of Debate Look to Future Results

So both sides see the scores as a vindication.

Teacher Alma Padilla said Proposition 227 inspired introspection among
bilingual educators to improve their existing bilingual programs. A clause in
the initiative allows parents to waive their children back into classrooms that
offer both native- and English-language lessons.

“If the scores are improving, great,” said Padilla, president of the north
Orange County chapter of the California Assn. for Bilingual Education.
“There
are so many variables that contribute to that. But these children are receiving
much better [bilingual] instruction than ever before.”

But Sheri Annis, spokeswoman for the pro-227 English for the Children,
predicted that the improved scores will prove the inadequacy of bilingual
programs.

“As teachers, parents and voters see the drastic improvement in scores .
. .
I think all remaining bilingual programs will collapse under their own weight,”
she said.

The one thing both sides agree on is that the improved scores are heartening.

“It’s a really nice trend I would hope to see continue,” said Mary Dalessi,
Anaheim Union High School District coordinator of testing and evaluation.
“The
telling thing will be if it continues next year, in the third year.
Everything
I’ve been taught is that two years don’t make a trend.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Stanford 9 Scores Grow for English Learners

Some of the most impressive Stanford 9 test score gains have come from
students who traditionally struggle most with the test–students who lack
English-language skills. Their scores, while still lower than those of their
English-fluent peers, are mostly growing at a faster clip. The following
percentile listings show how scores ranked, on average, against a nationally
selected group. A score in the 99th percentile, for example, is equal to or
higher than all but 1% of the comparison group’s.

98 99 98 99 98 99 98 99 98 99 98 99
District Grade Reading Math Language Spelling Science Soc. Sci.
Anaheim 7 13 15 25 29 20 26 15 19 22 26 21 25
Union 8 16 18 27 30 20 23 15 17 21 26 24 27
High 9 9 13 26 34 21 28 — — 22 26 21 26
10 7 10 25 30 12 16 — — 21 25 17 18
11 9 14 23 33 15 22 — — 19 24 28 32
Buena 2 21 29 22 38 19 32 23 35 — — — —
Park 3 10 22 17 41 17 34 19 37 — — — —
4 14 16 14 22 23 28 15 21 — — — —
5 11 20 16 32 18 30 15 26 — — — —
6 14 24 21 39 21 33 14 27 — — — —
7 10 21 23 32 18 31 14 26 — — — —
8 10 18 19 29 16 25 14 9 — — — —
Cypress 2 59 58 61 63 61 60 73 68 — — — —
3 35 51 47 70 46 69 52 66 — — — —
4 30 47 41 57 43 63 42 61 — — — —
5 23 53 40 67 36 66 31 64 — — — —
6 23 53 39 72 45 64 26 67 — — — —
Fountain 2 43 57 62 76 57 67 50 71 — — — —
Valley 3 34 42 58 65 43 54 50 60 — — — —
4 39 47 51 62 50 60 52 58 — — — —
5 30 47 51 66 43 63 46 65 — — — —
6 25 44 57 65 41 53 32 48 — — — —
7 19 32 51 67 30 47 25 37 — — — —
8 23 29 39 52 28 39 19 23 — — — —
Fullerton 9 10 11 33 34 24 25 — — 26 27 25 24
Joint Union 10 16 9 48 34 24 15 — — 36 26 28 18
High 11 16 15 41 44 26 28 — — 29 31 38 37
Magnolia 2 18 26 22 30 20 28 22 29 — — — —
3 12 22 16 32 18 29 21 34 — — — —
4 13 23 15 27 22 35 16 27 — — — —
5 12 23 17 30 20 30 18 31 — — — —
6 14 28 22 41 22 35 15 32 — — — —
Placentia- 2 24 25 28 40 28 28 28 26 — — — —
Yorba 3 19 19 32 32 27 26 25 26 — — — —
Linda 4 15 21 20 32 24 31 13 19 — — — —
Unified 5 13 19 18 32 22 28 17 22 — — — —
6 15 25 22 43 20 34 16 26 — — — —
7 12 25 23 38 18 34 13 26 — — — —
8 15 29 24 40 18 30 15 26 — — — —
9 11 20 26 46 26 39 — — 24 36 22 34
10 8 16 26 41 16 25 — — 20 32 17 28
11 10 22 30 49 21 35 — — 23 35 31 50
Tustin 2 23 26 32 37 25 30 26 32 — — — —
Unified 3 12 20 27 35 19 31 22 31 — — — —
4 12 17 18 27 24 30 13 21 — — — —
5 11 15 18 22 21 27 18 23 — — — —
6 17 21 24 28 22 29 18 25 — — — —
7 16 19 22 28 23 30 17 25 — — — —
8 20 24 24 28 24 30 16 20 — — — —
9 11 18 26 39 24 35 — — 23 30 25 32
10 9 13 28 31 12 20 — — 19 27 16 22
11 9 19 29 39 16 31 — — 20 28 22 40
Westminster 2 25 33 32 38 25 35 34 45 — — — —
3 17 22 32 41 23 31 31 44 — — — —
4 18 25 29 36 28 35 24 34 — — — —
5 15 26 24 41 24 40 24 40 — — — —
6 19 29 35 47 27 41 25 38 — — — —
7 13 28 32 50 26 44 23 39 — — — —
8 18 28 38 52 26 37 20 33 — — — —



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