Under New Plan, All Capo Teachers Are English-Language Teachers

To address the federal government's demand that it improve test scores for non-native English speakers, the district is rolling out a new teaching model.

A program designed to boost weak test scores among non-native English speakers is being rolled out by the .

The program, called Keystone, has been tested at  and  for two years and is in its first year of a districtwide expansion. Under the new plan—approved by the school board in January—all teachers will be trained to teach English newcomers.

“We need to change how we think about educating students, especially [non-native] students. We need to meet their needs in the regular, core curriculum,” said Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent of education services.

For two years, Capo’s English learners have not hit their goal on the Academic Performance Index, a way to measure mastery of English and mathematics.

In the most , the 5,662 English-learning students scored an API of 713. Overall, district students have an average score of 862. While the English learners’ recent score was 10 points above their previous showing, the improvement was not enough to avoid scrutiny. The goal is for the English learners to score an 800.

School officials said the new instructional model includes new, comprehensive curriculum, better communication with parents and better communication among teachers and administrators. With the new curriculum also comes new training for all teachers, including peer coaching.

Also new are regular meetings of English-language-development teachers from different schools. It will take three years for the district to fully convert to the new plan.

The biggest change may be that now all teachers are considered English-language teachers, said Hatchel. “In the past, our approach was a pullout approach,” meaning that English newcomers left their regular classes to receive specific help in language acquisition. But that method saw the students falling behind in the classes from which they were pulled.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, when school districts under-perform for two years straight, they are placed on “program improvement,” meaning they have to come up with a plan to address their shortcomings.

It normally takes students five to seven years to acquire a second language, said Amy Bryant, director of curriculum and instructional support for Capistrano Unified. But even as students leave the program to take regular classes, they are still 1½ to two years behind native English speakers.

Capistrano Unified is hardly alone. It might boast the highest API scores in the 15 largest school districts in the state, but English learners in every one of those districts are also struggling to meet their achievement goals. The same is true in 21 of 31 school districts in Orange County.

An analysis of the testing data shows that 44 percent of English learners in Capo Unified have been labeled as such for six years or more. Of this group, 10 percent are still considered beginners, with 43 percent falling in the intermediate level.

“They’re almost like a hidden population,” said Capo parent Carlos Solorzano, a Spanish teacher at  who once headed the English-learner-development program at Montclair High School.

English learners are spread throughout the district, Bryant said. While the southern areas may see more Spanish-speaking students, in Aliso Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita/Coto de Caza, English learners are more apt to speak Asian languages, Farsi or Russian as a first language, she said.

At the middle school and high school level, English learners are placed in specific classes for learning English but are in regular, English-based classes for science, mathematics and electives. It is at the secondary level where Capo students have especially struggled, according to district data.

English learners who start in elementary school have much more difficulty as they move up to middle and high schools, according to district data. The achievement gap between them and their English-speaking counterparts starts to grow in fifth grade. And it’s not just the language acquisition that suffers. English learners have a tougher time in math as well, says the data.

When it comes time to taking the California High School Exit Exam, only 36 percent of the English learners pass the English portion, and 48 percent pass the math portion, according to district data.

“Teachers really like the writing program,” Bryant said. It places equal weight on fiction and nonfiction reading so that the students learn the academic vocabulary needed for other disciplines, such as science and math.

Communicating with parents of English learners is also part of the plan, Bryant said. The district has hired some bilingual liaisons to communicate with the parents, but still need to hire about 20 more.

“Not everyone knows the system. Not everyone knows how to advocate for their children,” Bryant said. That’s where the bilingual liaison comes in. Currently, 30 schools have a bilingual liaison, and the district is searching for 20 more.

“We also want to bridge the gaps culturally with the PTA groups. The liaison can help them with that. They’re a part of the community, and we need them,” Bryant said.

Solorzano, who recently  with Superintendent Joseph Farley to learn about the changes for the English learners, works with CREER, a local group that seeks to strengthen educational opportunities and develop leadership in the Latino community. He believes Capo’s plan is missing a key component: literacy in the English learners’ first language.

“It’s not about speaking” your first language, Solorzano said. “If you are not literate in your first language, you won’t be literate in the second language.” Years of research from noted linguists Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stephen Krashen of the University of Southern California bear this out, he said.

Solorzano realizes he may be going against the dominant public opinion. In 1998, California voters passed Proposition 227, an initiative to end bilingual education in the state, by a large margin.

“No offense to Orange County, but they don’t have a clue,” Solorzano said.

"The law states that all students must be taught overwhelmingly in English," Bryant said. However, the district does offer various options, including the and Spanish for Spanish-speakers.

The district has found that English-learners in the "two-way" program outperform students in the English-only programs on standardized testing, Hatchel said. The program, whose goal was to fill the classrooms with 50 percent native English speakers and 50 percent Spanish speakers, will be adjusted in fall to accommodate 60 percent Spanish speakers.

"Parents do get a choice, however, as to the type of program/support their child receives," Bryant said.

The Capistrano Unified board of trustees will hear a more detailed description of the plan at its April 11 meeting.

Pam Sunderman April 03, 2011 at 07:10 PM
You do realize that education theory (Vygotsky, Piaget, Erickson, et al) is taught in the degree programs you hold in such contempt? Why not compensate for the knowledge of theories you use as reference? Tenure is not compensated so you don't have to worry about that. It just provides fair practices in the workplace. Tenure is NOT job protection. Plenty of tenured teachers have been laid off. 2o years in the classroom provides experience, collaboration with colleagues (including a two way benefit between newer and more experienced teachers), and the opportunity to share what you have learned with others in the profession (both in your own school and with colleagues from other districts...as well as at the college level). The incentive to seek real solutions happens every day in the classroom. It is the best part of the job. It is in the faces of students who are succeeding and who are not. Business (or any other pursuit) always tries to improve on what is working and what is not. It is called research and development and is a highly valued concept there. Why not in education?
shelly April 03, 2011 at 07:12 PM
The home is not mainstreamed. Constraints of jobs, other siblings and obligations limit the language immersion of parents. Parents are not together for 7 hours a day in order to be immersed in the language. It happens in bits and pieces. Parents are also past the critical age for language development so it is hard to learn a second language no matter how much you work on it or desire it. I believe immersion in a language is the best way to learn it. I believe in mainstreaming. I also believe that the mandates and contraints of NCLB and prop. 227 have put unrealistic, unattainable time specific goals on students, teachers and districts and label them as failures. Unfortunately many of our schools were not and are not equally integrated. I agree with your statement below. "For students, school and its surrounding social context become a crucial (and eventually dominant) component of that culture. My point is in a more integrated environment, language development and learning are enhanced." Yes this is true. So what happens when you get a school that has boundaries like Kinoshita? Las Palmas? San Juan Elementary? What do you do? Under the contraints of NCLB how do you get English language learner to test at the same level as native English speakers of the same grade level regardless of the child's exposure to the English language (2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, etc.)? This what the district and schools must do. What do you suggest?
shelly April 03, 2011 at 07:13 PM
Teachers are not paid for the amount of English language learners at a school or in a district. The Title III money goes to the districts.
Pam Sunderman April 03, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Perhaps you would like to also share that the salary levels for each step and column are NOT 10% lower in Irvine. Let's compare apples to apples shall we? Or do you prefer to manipulate statistics to fit your agenda? I have personal knowledge about both of these districts, as a parent and as a teacher, and I will be happy to discuss any comparisons of them with you. They are both, by the way, excellent school districts.
shelly April 03, 2011 at 07:17 PM
What is your point? Why is this of note?
Capo mom April 03, 2011 at 07:25 PM
If you don't like NCLB, blame the NEA and the AFT. No significant legislation happens without their holy water. Still waiting to hear why mainstreaming works for your kids but not others.
shelly April 03, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Capo mom, Please look at data for California school districts with the highest average salaries for teachers. Look at where they are located and look at the percentage of the ELL percentage in their districts. Look also at the cost of living in that district. These district's teachers are members of the teachers union. I don't believe that ELL funding influences the average salaries of the highest salary districts or the lowest. ELL funding is discretionary funding and can only be used for the purpose of teaching ELL.
Pam Sunderman April 03, 2011 at 07:39 PM
capo mom, "If you don't like NCLB, blame the NEA and the AFT. No significant legislation happens without their holy water." The NEA and the AFT did not write this law. Are you insinuating that these organizations can kill any law they don't like? And do you like it? Just curious.
Capo mom April 03, 2011 at 07:39 PM
We hear constantly that high salaries in CUSD are necessary to attract the best teachers. It doesn't appear to be the case here. Irvine enjoys national recognition for its excellence. CUSD? Does IUSD use the Keystone program? And refresh my memory please, are teachers in IUSD asking for salary restorations like they are in CUSD?
Pam Sunderman April 03, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Again capo mom...you will need to look at the whole salary scale for comparison..not just the average. Irvine also is known for its huge support from parents, as well as from the Irvine Company which has kept the district from making cuts in many areas with huge financial contributions. Is that the case in CUSD? As a matter of fact, Irvine is struggling right now to find solutions to the cuts they will have to make since the ACLU lawsuit will limit their ability to ask for parent contributions. And, yes, teachers in Irvine did get salary restorations this year...and their cuts were lower than those in CUSD to begin with.
Capo mom April 03, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Teacher compensation is the largest single expense in any school district. This compensation increases without regard for results or student needs. Funding levels are not based on step and column. Teacher salaries in CUSD are crowding out the opportunity for programs like the ones IUSD uses. So we go for things like Keystone instead. Lower cost alternatives that allow for the maintenance of higher teacher salaries on average.
Pam Sunderman April 03, 2011 at 08:13 PM
In the interest of accuracy I looked up actual teacher salaries for both districts (since it is of note to you capo mom). beginning teacher 48,016 vs. 47,090 (Irvine vs. CUSD) highest salary 94,251 vs. 95,340 As you can see the salaries for both districts are very similar. Another interesting thing to note is that Irvine values teachers transferring from other districts. They will recognize up to 12 years of experience and up to 75 credits with placement on the salary schedule. CUSD will only recognize 11 years with 75 credits (only with a Masters degree) with placement on the salary schedule.
Pam Sunderman April 03, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Why wouldn't you want teacher compensation to be the largest part of a school budget? What else should we spend the most money on? How would you base salaries? Please be specific. This is a concept that has concerned educators for a long time. And compensation hasn't increased lately...for teachers in high performing Irvine or any other district. Teacher salaries in CUSD are comparable to teacher salaries in Irvine. And are you insinuating that teachers are obligated to make up for the lost revenue in school districts no matter how low those revenues go? Keep in mind that teachers in CUSD took pay cuts last year and probably will again this year. At what point should ALL of us be looking for ways to share this burden? Or looking for ways to reform funding for education?
shelly April 03, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Where did I say it worked for my kids and not others? If I did imply this it was not my intention and I made a mistake. I think it works for all kids if the schools are integrated. I answer the questions you ask me. So how about some quid pro quo. "Yes, when kids are immersed in the language at school they pick it up like sponges. But if you have schools that have predominantly Native Spanish Speakers how are they going to socially immerse themselves in English on the playground and the classroom?" Here's one you did not answer. And remember these kids must be at the same level on the test as English speaking students in the district no matter. The tests are only conducted in English. and "So what happens when you get a school that has boundaries like Kinoshita? Las Palmas? San Juan Elementary? What do you do?" NCLB was introduced into law under Pres. G.W. Bush and under a Republican controlled Congress. I don't agree with it but unfortunately it is the law and its mandates still influence the funding of schools. Merely blaming someone does not educate children. I can find blame in many but it will not help with solutions. Finding the best solutions are what helps. Here is another question for you. Under the current system and standards of NCLB and prop. 227 what programs would you implement in CUSD to improve the standard test scores of ELL in our district and what experts would you consult to do so?
shelly April 03, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Capo mom, IUSD trustees and administrators negotiated with their teachers and did not impose permanent pay cuts. The former CUSD trustees signed the contract in June that restored the salaries and salaries were restored per contract. CUSD negotiated its salaries with its teachers IUSD negotiated its salaries with its teachers. All districts negotiate their salaries. I think that it is great that we pay our teachers a living wage in Southern Orange County where the cost of living is high. We want good teachers. We want highly educated loyal teachers that we do not have to retrain constantly or worry about the leaving on a whim because a better deal came along. Teachers salaries are not dependent on the percentage of ELL in the district in which they teach. You blame the teachers well here's who I blame. The destruction of the economy by the banks and business are what crowded out the opportunities for programs for our district. Less money coming in is what crowded out opportunities. Why not go after banks and businesses to recoup some of the lost revenue. Why not make these entities pay their fair amount of taxes. Oh, no we can't do that because it may stagnate business (which they have been saying for years even when times were good). No one complained about teachers salaries before. Teachers are not getting rich off our children. If you want the same or more and there is less money coming in then why are the teachers supposed to pay for it?
Capo mom April 03, 2011 at 11:49 PM
What are you (as a beneficiary of public education compensation) willing to do the "share the burden"?
Penny Arévalo April 04, 2011 at 12:19 AM
You can find how various school districts serve their ELLs here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/t3/t3reports.asp A FAQ is here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/t3/title3faq.asp
Capo mom April 04, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Let's start where we can agree. Results are better in IUSD. Average teacher salaries are less? Why?
Capo mom April 04, 2011 at 12:33 AM
What does that mean to most teachers? How does that benefit students?
Pam Sunderman April 04, 2011 at 01:24 AM
As a beneficiary of public education compensation (I assume you are referring to my salary and benefits) I am willing to do (and have done) as much if not more than most. Am I willing to give up my salary and benefits? Not unless you are. Am I willing to pay more taxes dedicated to education? You bet! Am I willing to donate to classrooms as an individual? Check out my tax returns and you will find that I have donated in the thousands every year. Ask my children and they will tell you that most trips to the store included something for the classroom (mine or theirs). And I am the rule, not the exception, among teachers. Why do you ignore the salary scale in favor of "average teacher salaries?" I mistrust averages since they can include such things as extra assignments and summer school which do not take into account the extra time spent doing those. Let's compare what a teacher can make without special assignments. Test scores may be better in IUSD but that is not the only result I am interested in. I would venture to guess that the over-all socio-economic level in Irvine is higher. And the value placed on education by parents is also higher district wide. As for the educational experience I know students receive in both places....equal.
Pam Sunderman April 04, 2011 at 01:32 AM
It means that most teachers would be (and have been) thrilled to teach in either district...until recently. With the teacher bashing going on in CUSD, the political battles being waged over non partisan school board seats, multiple superintendents, valued administrators fleeing the district, and the lack of support by people such as yourself, when the economy improves (and that is beginning to happen) and this crisis is over new teachers will not be thrilled to apply to CUSD. Who would? The benefit to students is to attract the best teachers. I sincerely hope that you will do your part to heal this district so that teachers can do their job without all of these negative distractions. In your zeal to promote charters and vouchers you are forgetting the excellence that is already here. I find that very shortsighted.
shelly April 04, 2011 at 04:12 AM
In CUSD there is a much bigger population of title I kids. CUSD is a bigger district. What is the average level of parental education in IUSD compared to CUSD?
shelly April 04, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Do you mean parents? We are also the beneficiaries of public education compensation. I am willing to pay more. The teachers took paycuts so they contributed. How much are you willing to pay to "share the burden" ? If parents want the same or more they had better be willing to pay more because less money is coming in. So let's say Boeing (or any big company) makes less of a profit because less planes are built because of the economy. Does that mean the Boeing retirees who were loyal, hardworking employees and worked for 30 t0 40 years need to kick back some of their retirement benefits which they worked for and paid into in order for the company to make the same profit?
shelly April 04, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Capo Mom, I will ask again. Under the current system and standards of NCLB and prop. 227 what programs would you implement in CUSD to improve the standard test scores of ELL in our district and what experts would you consult to do so? and Kids and adults learn best when immersed in the language. But if you have schools whose student population is composed of predominantly Native Spanish Speakers how are the native Spanish Speakers going to socially immerse themselves in English on the playground and the classroom? And under the constraints of NCLB and prop. 227 what programs would you implement at these schools in order to make them successful under NCLB.
shelly April 04, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Are CUSD and IUSD exactly the same. Are the student populations exactly the same? Individual school districts negotiate salaries with their teachers.
Capo Parent April 04, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Schools are having to cut and make touch choices. Either ELL learn English or they fail out. The problem with all these special programs that cost extra money and consume extra resources is the fact that the normal C to B student is discriminated againt. We pay too much money and devote too much time to special ed. and special needs kids, AP & IB get the best teachers and more attention, ELL get more resources and attention (look at how comments have be made on this subject alone). At the end of the day, the normal average kid gets shorted. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply ignoring reality.
Shripathi Kamath April 04, 2011 at 06:17 PM
"Either ELL learn English or they fail out." Which then, because of NCLB will cause CUSD to rate poorer and lose some funding besides that earmarked for just ELL, and that will affect the rest of the students as well. Seems unfair? Yes. That however, is the an issue caused by NCLB which is NOT under the purview of CUSD. Like Penny mentioned (and I blame her most of all), CUSD is shackled by federal and state mandates. NCLB punishes them for poorly performing students, and Prop 227 directs them to not use anything but English as the medium of instruction. They are also not allowed to refuse education to ELLs (or anyone else except for specific reasons).
shelly April 04, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Capo parent, America is great because we have an educated population. We educate all of our children no matter who they are. We should not go backwards and begin to discriminate because of limited resources. We as a people should be better than that. We need to look for solutions. Possibly we all should place more importance on education and looking at our children as the future and our most valuable resource instead of feeling that we need to protect company's like GM by having them not pay taxes and to give subsidies to Exxon and Texaco who make billions in profits each year.
shelly April 04, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Capo parent, How is the normal B or C student getting shorted? AP teachers are teachers who step up to take the extra classes and training in order to teach the challenging courses. They are good and great but not all are necessarily the best. There are great elementary school teachers, middle school teachers and non AP course teachers in schools everywhere in our district.
shelly April 05, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Capo Parent, One more question. What is a "normal B and C student." What does the "normal" mean?


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