Thursday, May 8, 2014

Franklin Elementary celebrates 'reclassification' of English learners

An auditorium full of parents, teachers, and classmates of 18 Franklin Elementary English Learners celebrated their reclassification from English Learner to Reclassified Fluent English Proficient status, while a new study shows these students will have higher academic achievement across their school career.
Franklin Elementary English speakers
English speakers at Franklin Elementary
News Coverage

During the ceremony, Holly Sanderlin, the school’s English Learner Support Teacher, gave a brief but motivating talk to all students in attendance.

"This year I'm calling our reclassified students the 'Franklin Fireworks,' she said. " When we watch fireworks we are captivated and amazed by their brilliance and light. Today I want you to have that same experience when you watch and listen to your fellow students. They are going to shine their light on you today and I want their brilliance to inspire and motivate you to do your best at school every day. You can be a firework too!"

Reclassification typically takes place for students in grades three and higher, so reclassifying 18 students is a huge accomplishment for an elementary school with only 50 upper grade English Learner students, said Debra Dougherty, Program Manager of the district's Office of Language Acquisition.

A few weeks after the ceremony, a study by the Public Policy Institute of California released 10-year study of English learners that included data from San Diego Unified. It showed that students, such as the Franklin students, become top academic performers when they are reclassified as proficient in English by the end of grade 5.

"In both Los Angeles and San Diego, students reclassified in elementary school are among the best academic performers," said Laura Hill, one of the researchers on the study. "We don't see evidence that they falter at higher grade levels relative to their classmates who are native English speakers."

English learners must pass the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) and California Standards Test (CST) to be reclassified. A different test will be used now that the CST has been superseded by the Common Core State Standards.

Superintendent Cindy Marten has made a priority in San Diego Unified increasing the number of students that are reclassified. A recent visit by student from Harvard recently visited schools in the district to study the issue. A majority of English learners speak Spanish as their native language, but there are also large numbers of students who speak Vietnamese, Filipino and Somali.