Module 1: California’s English learners

California’s diverse student population comes from many different ethnic groups, speaks a variety of languages and dialects, varies in English proficiency, and comes to school with a variety of experiences, academic and nonacademic.

According to the California Department of Education, an “English Learner” is a student who has enrolled in California schools from a family where a language other than English is spoken. Upon an initial language assessment, he/she is determined to be sufficiently limited in English proficiency, and are deemed unable to access an English-taught curriculum (Olsen, 2006). This limited proficiency in English directly affects learning and assessment.

The “English learner” label is expected to be a temporary designation. As ELs progress through the grade levels over time they are expected to increase in English proficiency and eventually be redesignated so that they no longer are required to receive English Language Development (ELD) services.

Some interesting facts about California’s EL population include:

  • California has about 1.5 million English Learners, representing about 25% of the population.
  • Over 2.5 million students speak a language other than English in their homes.
  • The dominant language group is Spanish, spoken by 85% of the ELs.

The top 5 primary languages spoken by English Learners in California are:

  1. Spanish…1.3 million (85%)
  2. Vietnamese…34,356 (2.5%)
  3. Cantonese…21,435 (1.4%)
  4. Tagalog…21,338 (1.4%)
  5. Hmong…21,042 (1.4%)

karin It is important for teachers of English learners to be aware of the diversity and complexity of the EL population in their classroom and understand the specific needs of his/her EL students. This will help teachers understand how to design and provide services, programs, and instruction around the needs of their students.

California recognizes five distinct levels of English learners as determined by the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). The CELDT has 2 purposes: 1) to identify English learners that are new to the educational system, and 2) to monitor the progress of English learners on an annual basis. The five levels are as follows:

  1. Beginning
  2. Early Intermediate
  3. Intermediate
  4. Early Advanced
  5. Advanced

It is expected that English learners will advance one level per year on the CELDT until they are redesignated to Fluent English Proficient. In the following modules you will see English learners of varying levels. Watch and see how the teachers in the video clips differentiate their instruction for the different levels of English learners in their classroom.