The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is currently undergoing a shift to its English as a Second Language (ESL) programming. The new policies aim to transition long-term English learners (LTELs) – ESL students who have been in the program for more than five years – into non-ESL classes.
In the past, students with language challenges attended two hours of ESL classes per day. Now, after five years in the program students will be required to attend an hour of a core curriculum course to supplement each hour of ESL.
A federal court mandate required school districts across the nation to begin transitioning LTEL students into core curriculum courses. LAUSD tested the new policy last year in a few schools throughout LA County and the results were so positive that the district decided to implement the changes in all the schools it serves.
Though this policy change is aimed at helping students progress, many people feel that guidelines should be decided on a local or state level and not by federal government mandate.
Other arguments from students and several teachers from Fairfax High School include the fear that students will be forced to transition into classes for which they are ill prepared, unnecessarily causing anxiety and possibly even damaging students’ confidence and self-esteem. Moreover, hiring and training more teachers will be costly for that district that has already cut arts and music programs, increased class sizes and downsized its staff.
However, Dr. Randy Grant, the ESL coordinator and literacy coach at Fairfax High School, is excited by these new measures. He agrees that this will be an expensive endeavor, but is confident that students will benefit significantly from the mandate.
“This is ground-breaking in that it offers students the opportunity to progress their learning in spite of any personal hesitation,” said Grant in an interview. “Students will be able to acclimate to the more challenging curriculum thanks to the changes in the ESL program, and this will ultimately allow them the opportunity to feel prepared and confident enough to apply to college.”