By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
Westminster School District officials want to close the English proficiency gap between native English speakers and English language learners.
Both groups have made progress in state standardized testing, but the gap between the two groups is growing wider, said Linda Baxter, assistant superintendent.
Baxter presented the 2011 English test results at the Oct. 20 Board of Trustees meeting.
“English language learners have not met the progress targets for the last two years,” she said.
Progress targets, set by the California Department of Education, rise significantly each year. So although students may improve each year, it isn’t always enough to reach the new, higher targets.
Board President Jo-Ann Purcell said it generally takes seven years for an English language learner to become proficient in English.
But background also plays a role, Baxter said. “It depends partly on how much schooling they’ve had before they come to us.”
Studies show students who are more proficient in their primary language will become proficient in English sooner.
“There are definite advantages to being proficient in two or more languages,” she said. “Students that know two languages score higher than students who speak English only.”
The bottom line, Baxter said, is English Language Development support should be consistent for at least five years.
Board member Sergio Contreras wants the district to put more emphasis on parent involvement, especially for English language learners.
“The parent component part comes and goes,” he said. “We need more consistency.”
He pointed to his own experience as an English language learner in the WSD.
“My teachers engaged my Mom and let her feel that she was important in my education,” he said. “What are we doing to engage parents to be part of the solution?”
Superintendent Richard Tauer agreed with Contreras. But said it’s also important for students to take responsibility for their education.
“Both parent involvement and student ownership are important,” he said. “Anything we can do to foster those two things is very good, and we work hard at that.”
Tauer said the district holds “student goal conferences.”
“It’s a step to getting students to realize they own their education,” he said.
Between grades 2 to 11, California students take a series of standardized tests. All grades are tested in math and English. Fifth graders also take a science test.
Eighth graders are tested in science, history and social science. The tests are given through the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program, known as STAR. Tests are between mid-March and mid-June.