Report finds 3 East County schools among state’s worst for educating English learners
By Miriam Raftery and Sharon Penny
Updated August 14, 2014 to include a response from the GUHSD
August 13, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) -A quarter of all school districts in California are failing to educate many children who don’t speak English, according to figures obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union on the Department of Education’s website.
Three local school districts –all in East County—made the list of the 15 districts with the worst records statewide for failing to provide services to English Learner ,or EL students. That’s according to a report titled “Opportunity Lost” published by the ACLU in 2013. The Grossmont Union High School District reported it provides no services to 41% of its 3,784 students. Dehesa Elementary School has 97 EL students, and 31% receive no services, while Julian Union Elementary is failing to provide services to help 30% of its 46 English learner students.
According to GUHSD Superintendent Ralf Swenson, the data included in the report is not accurate. He told ECM on August 14 that the District's inclusion on the list "was a result of a data reporting error which we corrected over a year ago."
Theresa Kemper, the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services for the district, offered this explanation. ""The data in the report is from the 2010-2011 academic year and does not accurately reflect what was happening at the time," she said. "We were never denying services (to English Learner students), but it was instead a data reporting issue." She said the data system at the time was limited, and only provided answers to specific questions, not allowing for extrapolation. For instance, it did not note when students were mainstreamed into core academic courses.
She added that the district now has an updated system that accurately tracks outcomes. "I want to point out that the numbers have gone down significantly: in 2011-12, we had approximately 900 students listed; in 2012-13, it was 400; and for the 2013-14 academic year, it was 50 students."
ECM did not receive responses from Dehesa and Julian schools.
Vista and San Marcos districts also made the list. Statewide, over 20,000 EL students were not provided language instruction, according to the state’s website, though the Department of Education has disputed the accuracy of figures reported by some schools.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit. Now, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant in Los Angeles has issued a ruling ordering the state to meet its own requirements and make sure that every child in California receives an education. The Judge emphasized that this is particularly important in a state where 20% of all students are deficient in English language skills, KPBS reports.
Here in San Diego, home to immigrants not only from south of the border but around the world, the decision could have significant impacts.
Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, had this to say after the ruling.
“State educational officials had created a virtual caste system in which tens of thousands of children—nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens—were denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians. Today marks an important civil rights leap forward for all students and all residents of the state.”