AB 491 Will Inform Parents About Classification as English Learners

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June 15, 2016 (SACRAMENTO) Assembly Bill 491 by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to better inform parents about the identification and education processes for English learner students was approved on a bipartisan 9-0 vote by the Senate Education Committee today. It will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 491 will provide parents with a notification letter explaining the identification process for English learner students with their child’s initial Home Language Survey when enrolling in school. It will also guarantee parents receive vital information relating to their child’s status as a long-term English learner or at-risk English learner in their child’s annual English learner progress notification letter. Currently there is no state or federal requirement to notify parents regarding their children who are long-term English learners or who are at risk of becoming long-term English learners.

“One simple answer amid a huge stack of kindergarten enrollment paperwork can unwittingly set off a chain reaction with major impacts on a student’s entire academic career,” said Gonzalez. “Ensuring that parents fully understand the English learner process ensures that our kids get the best possible education and our resources are targeted most effectively to help all students succeed.”

Most English language learners in California schools are first categorized as kindergartners, after parents who enroll their children are asked whether a language other than English is spoken at home. If parents respond yes, the student is assessed for English language proficiency. The current process has sparked concerns that it misclassifies students as English learners while making it difficult to correct such misclassifications.

The California Department of Education reports that nearly 25 percent of the state’s students – 1.4  million – are English language learners, with three-fifths categorized as long-term English learners. Recent studies have raised questions about how students are categorized as English learners and long-term English learners, particularly since schools receive increased funding for students in these programs.

The bill is supported by San Diego Unified School District, Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, the Association of California School Administrators, Los Angeles Unified School District and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

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