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In plain English

November 03, 2009

Re "Many L.A. students stay put in English language classes," Oct. 29

This story suggests that Los Angeles Unified School District English learners are languishing in English language learning classes for years and not entering the mainstream. This may or may not be the case.

If criteria used to classify students as fluent English speakers are high, many English learners will be able to understand a considerable amount of mainstream instruction before being officially reclassified. In fact, some programs include English learners in mainstream classes well before they are reclassified, gradually including them in more linguistically demanding subjects as they acquire more English.

We cannot conclude anything about the quality of the program L.A. Unified offers English learners from the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute's report.

Stephen Krashen

Los Angeles

The writer is a professor emeritus specializing in literacy development and language acquisition at the Rossier School of Education, USC.


English language learners are held to higher standards than English-only students. Other students are treated as normal until they show deficiency. But language learners must prove proficiency in reading and writing, using many measures, to exit the program.

This discrimination scars children and denies them real opportunities, like university eligibility.

We need an end to all double standards like the California English Language Development Test. English language learners in elementary school lose two days of instruction on this test. Many English-only students cannot pass it -- but they do not have to.

The state-mandated English language development curriculum provides low-expectation instruction to capable children, stealing time that could be used for science, social studies, health, art or physical education.

Scott Johnson

Los Angeles

The writer is an LAUSD elementary school teacher.

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