ELD program adapted to meet federal guidelines

Changes have been implemented to the SDUHSD Multilingual Learner Program (formerly the English Language Learner Program) this school year to be in accordance with the California Department of Education’s Federal Program Monitoring guidelines.

As per new state guidelines, students who have been in the United States for less than two years and who score a 1 — the lowest score — on the English Language Proficiency Assessment for California qualify for ELD 1. The course consists of two periods that include instruction on English language and reading and writing skills. The ELPAC, a required state test given to students whose primary language is not English, is used by schools for class placement.

Prior to this year, Multilingual Learner students had access to four levels of ELD classes — ELD 1, ELD 2, ELD 3 and ELD 4 (though ELD 1 and 2 were a combined class). In addition to being enrolled in an ELD language class, they had access to sheltered classes in other subjects, including world history and biology.

Now, students who would have previously enrolled in an ELD 2 class or higher are legally required to be enrolled in grade-level college preparatory classes for all of their core curriculum subjects. Students in ELD 1 are now placed in Structured English Immersion classes, instead of sheltered classes.

“[SEI classes] are very targeted to support our newest students to our district that need the most support for language proficiency and acquisition,” Dr. Brieahna Weatherford, the SDUHSD Director of Teaching Learning and Education, said. “Our other students who have higher levels of proficiency…are accessing their core content area classes with their peers, which is a huge celebration.”

MLL students who score higher than an ELPAC level 1 are still enrolled in designated ELD classes for their ELPAC level; however, they have the option to opt out of them.

In their college preparatory courses, they are scheduled in cluster classes — periods where groups of MLL students are in one classroom with English-proficient students. Teachers of classes with at least one MLL student are legally required to meet college preparatory content standards and the California ELD standards at the same time.

These alterations to the program are intended to make sure all MLL students in the district, including the 151 MLL students at TPHS, receive the support they need while having access to the same core curriculum as their peers, according to Weatherford.

“The hope is that we move more students into English proficiency, providing support to all students along the way who need it,” TPHS Assistant Principal Tracy Olander, who oversees the MLL Program, said.

Some think that this change will be positive for MLL students by allowing them to interact more with their peers.

“If it’s done well, it could be a chance for students to be integrated in the school environment in a healthy way,” Roxzana Sudo, an ELD 2 and ELD 3 teacher, said.

However, there are worries about how current MLL students will handle the transition, especially when put into college preparatory classes with native English speakers.

“In our ELD classes or sheltered classes, everyone is pretty much the same level … but now when they’re in a class with native speakers they are really going to be conscious about what they are saying,” Joanne Serrano, an ELD 1 teacher, said. “They may not feel comfortable to ask questions or volunteer in class because they are like ‘What if I don’t say it the right way?’”

Kristen Cullen, an ELD 4 teacher, echoed Serrano’s concerns.

“Our students need to advocate for themselves; how do you advocate if you don’t know the country, the policies, the culture or what to advocate for?” Cullen said. “That’s what [MLL teachers] are here for — to support them. I don’t worry for the long term, I just want [MLL students] to have enough support to reach their potential.”

Adding to concerns about this transition is the fact that the structure of college preparatory classes differs greatly from that of ELD classes, according to Cullen.

“The pacing is a lot different for an ELD student,” Cullen said, adding that the class is more individualized to the students’ reading and writing level.

These concerns came into play in ELD 4 student Rarity Chen’s (11) experiences in college preparatory classes so far.

“Everything goes fast,” Chen said. “No one will wait for you, and you have to work by yourself a lot.”

However, Chen also said the classes are a welcome challenge.

“It is a good change, sometimes you have to put yourself in a strange situation so you improve a lot,” Chen said. “I’m trying to get used to [the college prep classes]. It will get easier in the future.”

To facilitate this integrated teaching, MLL Program Leads have periods dedicated to assisting the teachers of these cluster classes by suggesting ways to modify assignments to make them more accessible for MLL students, according to Serrano.

Additionally, a new class, Advanced English Language Literacy, has been introduced to further support MLL students through their transitions. The class, taught by Serrano, is equivalent to four English credits at MiraCosta College as well as for elective credit at University of California schools.

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