GILROY – A report from the California Department of Education reveals that less than 20 percent of students tested for English proficiency are classified as fluent in the school district.
The report, released Tuesday, is compiled from a test called the California English Language Development Test – or CELDT. Although districts have used tests to assess English proficiency, this is the first year a single test has been administered statewide. Its aim is to tell districts how well they are teaching students whose first language is not English.
More than 2,700 students in the school district were tested at all grade levels, which accounts for about 28 percent of the student population in the district.
Because this is the first year test results are available the school district will use the report as a benchmark for improving curriculum in the district for English language learners.
“This really gives us the opportunity to determine where a student’s entrance-level proficiency is,” said Jacki Horejs, assistant superintendent of educational services.
District staff has not had the opportunity to review the results released Tuesday, Horejs said, but hopes to use the results to identify which classroom materials students will need and how to group students according to their skill level.
The test was only given to students whose home language is not English. The test must be taken within 30 calendar days after they are enrolled in a California public school for the first time. The CELDT must also be given once a year to English learners until they become proficient in English.
Students are considered fluent if they receive a score that places that student under a classification of Early Advanced or higher. In grades kindergarten through fifth grade, 7.3 percent of students tested in the Gilroy Unified School District placed at this level. Numbers of fluent students were higher in secondary schools ,with about 30 percent of students in grades six through eight classified as fluent and more than 40 percent of high school students tested as fluent.
The results include an initial assessment of students done in May and the annual test performed in October.
According to information provided earlier from the district, districtwide in grades kindergarten through fifth an average of 36 percent of students are classified as English language learners. The district administered the CELDT to 1,602 students grades kindergarten through fifth.
Districts are required by the state to administer the CELDT and the testing window operates from July through October. The test covers three skill areas – listening/speaking, reading and writing. Students in kindergarten are only assessed in listening and speaking.
The district has been in the process of revamping its English instruction for students learning the language. The English Language Learners Task Force, which consists of district officials, staff and teachers, submitted a report to the school district in March which detailed a new system for instructing English language learners in the district. The task force decided to structure an English program with primary language support. This is called the English Language Development Approach, in which students will receive instruction in English and support in their primary language.
The task force also recommended the expansion of the district’s Dual Immersion Program currently in place at San Ysidro Elementary School. The program, which will be relocated to Las Animas School next year, places English-only students with Spanish-only students with the goal they will each learn the other’s language.