The State Board of Education this week approved a revolutionary English Learner Roadmap to help California's more than 1,000 local school districts welcome, understand, and educate the diverse population of students who are learning English.
California has about 1.4 million students—one of every four public school students statewide—classified as English learners. The Roadmap is the first new language policy adopted in nearly 20 years. It removes outdated barriers to bilingual and multilingual instruction and will help schools meet updated state and federal education laws and requirements.
"This is a terrific step forward to help students in the wonderfully diverse state of California," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. "The road map will guide teachers and school districts all across California as they help students on their way to success in 21st-century careers and college."
State Board President Michael W. Kirst said passage of the roadmap marks both an end and a beginning.
"With this vote, the state puts regressive policies in our past and embarks on a new, inclusive path toward ensuring California's promise of college and career readiness for all students is fulfilled," he said.
California voters last year overwhelmingly approved Proposition 58, which removed a number of legal barriers to bilingual learning. The measure will ensure that all students receive the highest-quality education, master the English language, and access high-quality and innovative language programs.
Past restrictions date back to 1998, when Proposition 227 passed and placed nearly all students learning English in English-only classrooms.
Demand for bilingual and multilingual instruction has been growing as proficiency in more than one language helps students compete for college admissions and jobs. For example, high school seniors who demonstrated dual language skills can earn a gold Seal of Biliteracy on their diplomas. In the Class of 2016, more than 40,000 students earned the seal, four time the number when the state-authorized program started in 2010.
The English Learner Roadmap will also help California schools comply with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act and the state's Local Control Funding Formula, both of which require specific assistance students learning English can meet the same academic standards as other students.
The Roadmap started as a recommendation of Torlakson's "Blueprint for Great Schools Version 2.0" in 2015. The California Department of Education, with support from the Sobrato Family Foundation and the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, received advice on the recommended policy from over 370 educators during three public meetings. The Roadmap will be available online. For more information, see this CDE website.