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Advocates show up for English learners at State Board of Education meeting

On January 8, 2020, ten advocates from across the state spoke passionately on behalf of English Learners at the California State Board of Education Meeting in Sacramento. Voicing both gratitude and authentic critique, they discussed the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) template redesign, the California Spanish Language Assessment (CSA), revisions to the California State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and Local Education Agencies’ Comprehensive Support and Improvement Plans.

Here are some examples of the testimony.

Eduardo Muñoz Muñoz, spoke as a parent representative on an English Learner Advisory Committee, to emphasize and recommend the importance of including a written response to input from DELACs for the district LCAP  in accordance with Education Code Section 52062(a)(2) or 52068.  He emphasized that even though it is in the statute, it is not happening as much as it should, and “we should not miss a single opportunity” to establish this two-way communication.

Stephanie Sequeira, a parent from West Contra Costa Unified, and DELAC representative echoed the call for written response, saying “we, the parents of the flatlands, we know what our kids need and we want to build that partnership with our district.”

Ruth Barajas, former principal and educator, who spoke on behalf of Californians Together, shared appreciation of the changes made to the template that intend to address closing the achievement gaps, but requested stronger language requiring  that LEAs identify metrics for specific student groups and include expected outcomes to narrow performance gaps. She stated, “When we tell someone they “should” do something, do they do it?  They might. BUT if we say, they “shall” do something…then it tells them we expect it..” She urged the Board to use their “flexibility in authority” to change the word “should” to “shall”.

Catalina Madrigal Rupert, a parent and a former English Learner from Los Gatos called for action: “We believe one of the basic principles of the LCFF law was to attend to the student subgroups with a history of performance gaps and provide extra resources for that purpose.” “It’s 2020”, she said, “let’s move forward with a clear vision of expectations and actions!”

Dr. Carolina Serna, professor, CABE Board Member and 3rd grade teacher in a dual programs raised the issue that 92% of LCAPs they reviewed had a rating of weak or no evidence of for EL student outcomes on academic achievement, and that the state auditor stated that only one district had a goal that was specific for the intended student subgroup.” To avoid this, she called on the Board to make sure that differentiated growth targets are included in the instructions.

Carla Herrera, SEAL Consultant and former IQC member, spoke to the limitations of the California Spanish Assessment (CSA). She stated: “There is truth to the statement that “you teach what is tested”.  If all that is tested for Spanish writing is mechanics, that sends a very narrow view of what skills a proficient writer possesses. We recommend that The California Spanish Assessment be augmented with Constructed Response (CR) Full-Write items which would set the expectation for development of authentic writing for our students.  To not augment the assessment with CR items also creates a lower standard for writing in Spanish compared to what we expect of students in English on the ELA CASPP assessment.”  

More people testified on important issues and the response from several board members was encouraging.  We will continue to advocate until the LCFF and the State Accountability system support and shine a light on the needs of current English Learner and our Reclassified English Learners.

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