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English Learners Make Progress On Narrowing Achievement Gap

— More than 500 school administrators spent Thursday morning discussing how they’re helping English learners achieve academically. This is the third year the countywide group has met.

Across the county, English learner scores on state tests have risen steadily since 2007, according to data released this week by the County Office of Education.

“Some of the things that we notice is that the more they pay attention to specific needs for students and the more that the teachers are looking at the data and thinking of the students as they prepare the lessons, the greater response that they’re having in the achievement,” said Monica Nava, senior director of English Learner Services and Support for the County Office of Education.

Maritza Koeppen leads districtwide English Learner programs for San Marcos Unified. She said strategies that benefit those students can benefit all students.

“Every lesson should include listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking with all of our students, although very critical for our English learners," she said. "So while these strategies that I presented today really talk about good engagement strategies for all kids, it’s very, very critical for those English learners.”

However, the percentage of English learners scoring as proficient on some state math and English assessments lags behind other students from 20 to 50 percent. Nava said there is still room to improve.

One area she said school districts can focus more attention is longterm English learners, or students who have been in county schools for several years without becoming fully fluent.

“Over 60 percent of them have started in our schools since kindergarten," she said. "So, the fact that they haven’t been able to acquire English to the highest levels indicates this is a program we need to address.”

Brian Randall is the principal of Woodland Park Middle School in San Marcos. He said teachers need training to recognize these long-term English learners because they blend in with native speakers.

“It’s an entire school-site issue, it takes the entire staff to work together as a team to bring up the achievement of these students.”

English learners hit state testing targets at 12 San Marcos schools last year, up from five the year before.

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