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Judge rules California must educate all non-English-speaking students

Posted: August 14, 2014 4:54 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2014 4:54 p.m.

A Los Angeles judge has ordered the state of California to educate all children who don’t speak English, saying it needs to take action after reports showed a quarter of school districts failed to meet that state and federal requirement.

Judge James Chalfant said this week the California Department of Education needed to figure out the best way to enforce the law and make sure English instruction is provided in a state where more than a fifth of students are deficient in English.

“You’ve got to go ferret this out because you can’t have even one child that isn’t getting their instructional services,” Chalfant said. “You have a report that 20,000 aren’t getting their instructional services. That’s not good enough.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented three Spanish-speaking Compton students in the lawsuit, claimed language barriers held students back a grade or led to low test scores.

The ACLU brought the suit after finding figures on the state Education Department’s website that showed 20,300 English learners were not given language instruction. The numbers were reported to the state by school districts statewide as part of a census.

Named in the ACLU’s report was the William S. Hart Union High School District.

According to that report, the Hart district failed to provide English-language educational services to 1,142 of its 2,118 English-language-learning students in the 2010-2011 school year.

“An internal investigation determined that the issue involved a reporting glitch and not a failure to deliver services,” district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker wrote in an email Thursday.

“English learners receiving services in Structured English Immersion were not coded correctly and appeared as receiving no service,” she wrote.

When coded correctly, the district’s data for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 “reported that fewer than three students total were receiving no services,” Pinsker said.

“Our English-learner students continue to receive appropriate services aimed at increasing their success in school and proficiency in English.”

Statewide, 251 school districts reported deficiencies in educating English learners. They ranged from Los Angeles Unified School District, which said it didn’t educate 4,150 of 194,904 English learners, to Twain Harte-Long Barn Union Elementary in the Sierra foothills, which failed to teach its lone English learner, according to the ACLU.




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