English Language Learners 

The San Diego County region has a relatively high proportion of residents who speak a language other than English in the home compared to the rest of the country, due to the diversity of the population, the shared border with Mexico, and San Diego County being one of the top refugee resettlement destinations in California.[1]  Moreover, English Language Learners (ELL) or multilingual students are one of the fastest growing subgroups in the U.S. education system.[2] This population of students often faces high rates of school segregation and linguistic isolation.[3]
Learning English supports academic achievement, reduces social isolation, and opens future employment opportunities for students in the U.S.[4] Federal law, State law, and judicial precedent require schools to support students who are not fluent in English by giving them equal access to a high-quality education while they learn English.[5] These policies acknowledge the importance of ELL instruction to be equitable, without preventing multilingual students from taking courses that their peers are granted access to.[6]
Learning English may be more challenging for students who do not have close relationships with English-fluent peers or adults, and for disabled students. Educators, parents, advocates, and others can help these students by connecting them with mentors and ensuring that they have materials that do not rely on the student being able to solely perceive or process auditory, visual, or verbal information to learn. Further, culturally responsive and dual-immersion courses have been shown to be beneficial for multilingual students in the long run.[7]
In San Diego County public schools, Spanish was the primary language spoken by ELL students in the 2021-2022 school year with about 80% of ELL students who spoke it, followed by Arabic, Chaldean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog/Pilipino.[8]
In line with California guidelines, the San Diego County Office of Education collects data on the number of students in each level of the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) Performance Level Descriptors (PLDs) and the number of students who changed levels. The PLDs are as follows[9]:
  1. Minimally developed listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in English, needs substantial to moderate linguistic support to communicate in familiar contexts and substantial support in less familiar contexts.
  2. Somewhat developed listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in English, needs moderate to light linguistic support to communicate in familiar contexts and substantial to moderate support in less familiar contexts.
  3. Moderately developed listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in English, needs light to minimal linguistic support to communicate in familiar contexts and moderate to light support in less familiar contexts.
  4. Well-developed listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in English, needs occasional support to communicate in familiar contexts and light support in less familiar contexts.
 As shown in the figure below, in the 2021-2022 school year, about 83,000 San Diego multilingual students were tested for their English proficiency. Nearly 17% of those students tested into the highest level of proficiency. Proficiency levels varied across grade level, but generally the greatest proportion of multilingual students tested into Level 3 proficiency. Both early elementary and high school grades tended to have the lowest proportion of students who tested into Level 4 proficiency, with only about 15% of students who tested into Level 4 in the 12th grade. The data in this report show proficiency at a single point in time. Multilingual students may enter the school system at any grade level or proficiency level throughout the year; thus, these data do not reflect individual improvement and the relative proportions may not change much year to year. The San Diego County Office of Education’s Equity Blueprint for Action highlights multilingual students as an important demographic of student to provide equity to and suggests districts eliminate tracking (the practice of assigning students to hierarchically separated classrooms with differentiated coursework)[10], establish strengths-based belief systems that use rhetoric such as multilingual as opposed to English learner, ensure both designated and integrated English language development, and implement California’s new English Learner Roadmap.[11]

Data Information
Data Source: California Department of Education, Academic Year 2021-2022.
References
  1. California Immigrant Data Portal. (n.d.). Refugee Arrivals. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://immigrantdataca.org/indicators/refugee-arrivals#/?geo=04000000000006073
  2. Mavrogordato, M. & White, R.S. (2020) Leveraging Policy Implementation for Social Justice: How School Leaders Shape Educational Opportunity When Implementing Policy for English Learners. Educational Administration Quarterly. 56(1):3-45.
  3. Garanda, P. & Orfield, G. (2010). A Return to the “Mexican Room”: The Segregation of Arizona’s English Learners. UCLA: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/7m67q3b9
  4. Ibid.
  5. Schools’ Civil Rights Obligations to English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents. (2020, February 10). [Laws; Educational Resources]. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/ellresources.html
  6. Garanda, P. & Orfield, G. (2010). A Return to the “Mexican Room”: The Segregation of Arizona’s English Learners. UCLA: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/7m67q3b9
  7. Umansky, I.M. & Reardon, S.F. (2014) Reclassification Patterns Among Latino English Learner Students in Bilingual, Dual Immersion, and English Immersion Classrooms. American Educational Research Journal 54:879-912.
  8. CA Dept of Education. (n.d.). English Learner Students by Language by Grade—DataQuest. Retrieved January 4, 2023, from https://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/SpringData/StudentsByLanguage.aspx?Level=County&TheYear=2021-22&SubGroup=All&ShortYear=2122&GenderGroup=B&CDSCode=37000000000000&RecordType=EL
  9. Understanding Summative ELPAC. Caaspp-elpac.ets.org. Accessed July 24, 2023. Understanding Summative ELPAC Summary Reports - ELPACReporting (CA Dept of Education) (ets.org)
  10. Umansky, I. (2016). Leveled an Exclusionary Tracking: English Learners Access to Academic Content in Middle School. American Educational Research Journal 53(6) 1792-1833. DOI: 10.3102/0002831216675404
  11. Equity Blueprint for Action (2021). San Diego County of Office of Education. Retrieved from, Equity Blueprint (finalsite.net)
Return to Theme Page: Education
Updated February 7, 2024