English learners in the continue to struggle, especially in the elementary grades, according to the latest testing results out of Sacramento.
The number of who are either below basic or far below basic levels in English-language arts grew in second through fifth grades, the 2011 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program results show. Furthermore, elementary-aged English learners in other Orange County school districts are performing better than in CUSD.
However, English-language-arts performance in the higher grades improved locally. The number of students testing at below basic or far below basic dropped five percentage points in sixth grade, 11 points in seventh grade, nine points in eighth grade, six points in ninth grade, 15 points in 10th grade and a whopping 24 points in 11th grade.
Despite those improvements, more than half the English-learner population in 10th and 11th grades remain below basic or far below basic levels. The same is true countywide and statewide.
"We know that we have to improve the outcomes for our English learner students," said district spokesman Marcus Walton.
To address the needs of English learners, the school district began a pilot program in fall 2010 it calls the Academic Design and Delivery Initiative.
It will "help us refine our instructional methodologies for English learners specifically but will also help improve instruction for all of our students," Walton said.
The program involves identifying best teaching practices and using teachers on special assignment to impart those practices through peer coaching, Amy Bryant, director of curriculum and instructional support, told the board of trustees at last week’s board meeting.
Although the impetus was the English-learner population, the strategies should help all students, Bryant said.
The program “worked well in all types of classes,” Bryant said. “Every class has a bottom 30 percent, and that’s what this initiative is really all about.”
The initiative is called SIOP, short for "sheltered instruction, observation protocol." It has eight major components, Bryant said. It’s not a curriculum; it’s a method of teaching.
“We call it out little black dress. It never goes out of style,” Bryant said.
Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent for education services, said the district has not yet compared standardized testing scores for English learners who were introduced to SIOP strategies with those who were not.
Those struggling to learn the English language are also struggling in other subjects, the STAR results show. The number of Capo Unified English learners who scored below basic or far below basic levels in math grew in grades fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth grades. Third-grade, seventh-grade and ninth-grade English learners scored the same in 2011 as they did in 2010. Only first-graders saw an improvement in basic math.
In the upper grades for Algebra I, eighth- and 11th-graders saw much improvement. In 2010, 20 percent of eighth-graders and 71 percent of 11th graders scored below basic or far below basic in this course. By 2011, those numbers dropped to 7 percent and 56 percent, respectively.
The most recent STAR results also show that English-learner students in the district's are not necessarily faring better than English learners at regular elementaries.
The Two-Way program brings students who speak Spanish as native language with those who speak English and teaches them in both languages, with a goal of biliteracy by fourth grade.
The STAR results, however, indicate that English-learners in a traditional setting may fare better, especially when it comes to English-language arts. Only in fourth grade are students from and —two Two-Way schools—proficient or advanced in English in higher numbers than students from , a school with a large number of English-learner students.
Kinoshita students also outperform their counterparts in third- and fifth-grade math. In science, however, more students at Las Palmas clock in at proficient or advanced levels at 15 percent than at San Juan Elementary (4 percent) or Kinoshita (6 percent).