California Neglects Education of English Learners, Lawsuit Claims

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2012

State officials are neglecting their legal obligation to ensure that students who are learning English are receiving an adequate and equal education, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the ACLU of Southern California and other advocates.

The focus of the litigation is a small school system near Fresno, but the legal implications are broader: The suit accuses the state of poor oversight and says it must, by law, act to make sure these students are keeping pace academically with their peers across California.

The suit claims that the Dinuba Unified School District in Tulare County uses a substandard curriculum to improve the lagging performance of students who have yet to master English.


In Dinuba, first, second and third graders are removed from their regular classes and instead taught grammar, in English, at a level beyond even what native speakers are exposed to at that age, the suit claims. The result, it says, is that students are missing curriculum they could and should be learning while being drilled on material that is not appropriate.


The district has described its approach as teaching English as though it were “a foreign language” through methods that “help students understand how English is constructed and used.”


“No state has a greater stake in the education of children who are learning English as a second language than California,” where 23% of students are learning English, said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the Southern California ACLU. “Yet no state does a poorer job of educating [these] students to communicate and comprehend English.”


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