Language Minority Students and California Community Colleges: Current Issues and Future Directions

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Spring 2008 - Despite the likely size of the language minority student population in California community colleges and widespread agreement regarding the need for English language support, there are currently no statewide data available on the number of students in community colleges who speak home languages other than English, students’ English language proficiency, or how many current community college students were identified as English learners in the K-12 system. The first article in this Issue focuses on the role that community colleges play in preparing language minority students academically for Associate’s degrees or transfer to four-year institutions. In addition to issues regarding steering students toward the most appropriate test, “significant problems” have been identified with other aspects of the assessment process at California community colleges, including the validation process of placement tests and the validity of the additional measures used.

Beyond ELL placement issues, the author reports that "college staff tend to have a mistaken view that immigrants master English before crossing over into the academic or vocational coursework” and, as a result, campuses pay “little attention to helping immigrant students fulfill both tasks simultaneously”. There were few instances of “bridge” courses or programs designed to integrate English language skills and content knowledge." This paper highlights the wide variety of challenges facing community colleges in meeting the needs of the students they are responsible for serving, especially for language minority students transitioning to community colleges from U.S. high schools. Less

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