SUSD’s English-learning students make strides

Board of Trustees hears about leaps and bounds from English-learning students, approves continued contract for aquatics complex at Sanger West

(Darren Fraser)
(Darren Fraser)
Darren Fraser
Published January 30, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

SANGER – Multilingual students in the Sanger Unified School District (SUSD) are making significant progress in their advancement, as they have gone from being classified as individuals who are learning English – an English Learner (EL) – to individuals who have been reclassified as being fluent English proficient (RFEP).

SUSD multilingual program specialist Judy Duran said SUSD currently has 2,132 kindergarten through 12 students who have been reclassified from EL to RFEP. For a student to be reclassified, they must demonstrate English proficiency in listening, reading and writing, as specified by the California Education Code. 

In her presentation to SUSD at its Jan. 23 meeting, SUSD multilingual program specialist Judy Duran told the Board that in 2023, nearly 56% of the SUSD’s 1,379 EL students made progress towards English language proficiency – an increase of 3.7% over 2022. 

Duran said that multilingual learners – students with a primary home language other than English who are learning English – make up roughly 30% of the district’s student enrollment. She said the most common non-English languages in these households are Spanish, Punjabi and Hmong. For the 2022-2023 school year, SUSD had 1,882 EL students.

Duran went on to explain the annual goal for an EL, which is to grow one proficiency level on the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC). Growth is paramount because when an EL languishes without making progress, despite enjoying EL services, they run the risk of becoming classified as a Long-Term English Learner (LTEL).

LTEL is defined as someone who is in grades sixth through 12, who has spent six or more years in a U.S. school, has been at the same ELPAC level for two years – or has regressed – and has not met the standards for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress –  English Language Arts (CAASPP-ELA) for grades six through nine.

Duran said more than half of SUSD’s EL students have made progress, according to the California School Dashboard, which is maintained by the California Department of Education.

In 2023, nearly 56% of students made progress towards English language proficiency. This marked a 3.7% increase over 2022.

On the untimed Summative ELPAC, 451 students or nearly 25% scored at a Level 4 – well developed or proficient – which is the highest category. This proficiency rate increased over 6% from 2022 to 2023. As for the moderate level or Level 3,719 students attained this mark on the assessment.

“SUSD grew the most when compared to surrounding districts,” said Duran. “On the Dashboard, 15 or more of our schools have 50% or more of our EL students making progress towards English language proficiency.” There are 20 schools in SUSD.

She added, “When we look at the proficiency rate of our reclassified students on the CAASPP, 57% of our reclassified students met or exceeded standards in English language arts and 35% met or exceeded standards in math.”

WE CAN ONLY MOVE THE GOALPOST SO MUCH

Another item that was discussed was Sanger West High School. Deputy Superintendent Eduardo Martinez gave an address to the Board regarding the progress of the Aquatics Complex at the school. The action item before the Board was to continue the construction contract with Harris Construction to build two pools and the surrounding infrastructure on the campus.

SUSD Board Trustee G. Brandon Wang raised issues with the timeline of the progression, however, which has experienced some delays. He noted this by telling Martinez he understood the impacts from COVID were still being felt, which is one of the reasons why approval of the complex was one of the items the Board voted on at this particular meeting.

“We’ve been waiting for this high school for some time,” Wang said, referring to Sanger West, which opened in August 2020 and became SUSD’s second comprehensive high school in July 2022. “This is a time-of-the-essence contract. It has a 20-month completion plan. How realistic is this?”

Martinez assured Wang and the other members of the board Harris’ 20-month plan to complete was reasonable. But he cautioned that there are always elements, including weather, that can delay construction.

Despite these elements, Martinez said, “I can assure you; 20 months is reasonable. And we will continue to hold our colleagues from Harris and any subcontractors to the task.”

But despite Martinez’s assurances, Wang did not seem entirely convinced.

“I know that COVID threw us a curveball. Yes, I understand there may be labor shortages, material shortages in addition to what you mentioned,” he said. “I know this project was supposed to be done months ago, perhaps even one or two years ago. I understand and I hope the public has the patience that we are doing the very best that we can. I hope Harris Construction understands we can only move the goalpost so much.”

Following the discussion, the Board approved the item and another action item related to the same project.

Darren Fraser
Reporter