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An Oakland-based advocacy organization for educational achievement is indirectly spanking State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson for putting a positive spin on a decline in progress by the state"s "English-learner" students.

Earlier this week, Torlakson released the latest results of the California English Language Development Test, also called CELDT, indicating that proficiency had declined slightly from the previous year.

Torlakson noted that achievement was still higher than four years earlier and blamed the slippage on education spending cuts.

"These results demonstrate that the valiant efforts of teachers and school administrators to help our students become fluent in English are being undermined by budget cuts that are crowding classes and shortening the school year," Torlakson said in a statement.

To the Education Trust-West, however, Torlakson missed the point.

"The release of data from the California Department of Education showing a decline in the performance of English learner students on the CELDT is a cause for profound concern," the organization said in a statement.

"However, the CDE's statement on this data raises even greater concerns. The release gives Californians the impression that our state is making reasonable progress in serving its English learner students, while attributing this setback to the ongoing budget crisis. The data tell us a different story."

The statement continues:

"Five percent fewer high school English Learner students met the CELDT criterion for possible reclassification in 2010-11 than in 2009-10. And although the vast majority of the state's English learner students enter school in kindergarten and the early elementary years, this year the data show that more than half (59 percent) of ELs in high school are not achieving the level of proficiency required for reclassification. We know that students who are not reclassified are often tracked into lower-level coursework and are at greater risk of not graduating.

"If anything, these results should be a reason for dismay rather than celebration. It is simply unconscionable that 250,000 EL students in California high schools, many of whom are long-time English Learners, have not been reclassified. Even worse, the data doesn't tell us how many students eligible for reclassification, as measured by the CELDT, are actually being reclassified."

Without mentioning Torlakson by name, EdTrust-West then added this:

"Our elected leaders should not only be decrying the impact of the budget cuts, but also the decisions made at the local level that have inequitably stripped supports -- from eliminating summer school to shortening the length of the school year -- vital to the education of our ELs. They should also remind themselves that this situation has been the same in both good times and bad, and no excuse is sufficient for the loss of educational opportunity for millions of young Californians."


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