OC Political

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Norby Notes 15 – End of Session Rush & Norby-Solorio ELL Hearing Findings

Posted by Newsletter Reprint on August 27, 2012

This came over the wire from Assemblyman Chris Norby’s office on Friday…

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NORBY NOTES

AUGUST, 2012 | ISSUE 15

End of Session Rush

With the constitutional August 31 deadline nearing, the final two weeks of the legislative season feature long floor sessions with a torrent of bills. Some have lingered all year, others are last-minute brainchilds, while others are last minute deals-and opportunities.

Opportunities include a real chance at reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which has transformed environmental protection into a shakedown racket of nuisance lawsuits costing untold billions in needless delays on vital public and private projects.

I have signed on as a sponsor to SB 317, a bipartisan bill to streamline CEQA requirements and expedite construction of long-delayed projects. Republicans have long touted such reforms and some Democrats, too, are now concerned about lawsuits blocking projects they favor. I’m still hopeful the bi-partisan coalition will hold, but CEQA reforms may have to wait until next year. Taxpayers, job-hunters and idle worksites have waited long enough.

AB 1500 is a massive $1.2 billion tax increase, falling on out-of-state companies doing business in California. This “single sales factor” bill would change the complex calculation of how companies are taxed. I voted “no” but it passed the Assembly on a party-line vote and now awaits Senate action. Major manufacturers in my district, like Kimberly-Clark in Fullerton, called in their opposition.

SB 1530 would allow school districts more freedom to dismiss abusive teachers. Arising from horrifying abuse scandals at LA’s Miramonte School, the bill was pushed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Senator Alex Padilla, only to be killed in the Assembly Education Committee, with only one Democrat vote. The killing of the bill itself has become a kind of scandal, being featured just last night by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Norby-Solorio ELL Hearing Findings

Last month my colleague Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana) and I held a hearing on California’s English Language Learner (ELL) program, drawing out over one hundred parents, students, teachers and administrators.

The following concerns were echoed by many of the participants and will be the subject of future legislation:

  • HOME  LANGUAGE  SURVEY: Parents need clearer directions as to how to fill out the survey and what it means to their children’s future. The survey specifically asks about the child’s exposure to spoken language in the home. Any language other than “English only” generally triggers further testing and placement in the ELL program. Surveys may vary from district to district and are subject to varying interpretation. A more uniform approach statewide is needed.
  • PARENTAL NOTIFICATION: Long-term ELL students often remain in the program for years, without their parents’ knowledge. Parents need clearer notification when their children are first categorized and each year they remain. Parents may remove their child from the program at any time, but many districts are unaware of this and continue students’ ELL designation without parental consent or knowledge.
  • RECLASSIFICATION: Most students in ELL are US-born citizens with early exposure to English, yet barriers remain high for them to be reclassified out of the program.  Requirements should focus on real language acquisition and not add other unrelated issues.
  • PARENTAL PERCEPTION: Parents increasingly perceive that ELL placement diverts students from mainstream education and hinders their college admissions opportunities. The program must be a partner with parents, not an adversary.
  • TESTING: The California Educational Language Development Test (CELDT) is widely used to evaluate English fluency, yet there are no uniform standards as to how its results are interpreted. The administering of such a complex test to incoming kindergartners could be leading to over-designation of ELL students.

The acquisition of English fluency is a top priority of California’s public schools. However, students should not linger indefinitely in a program based on a test they took when they were only five years old. Students coming from homes where non-English languages are spoken should not be unduly stigmatized, but their bilingual abilities should be encouraged and enhanced. Existing dual-immersion programs take this approach, but are limited in their availability, compared to mandated ELL programs.

English fluency must be the goal for all of our students. To do so, the classification and evaluation of  the English Language Learner program must be reexamined and refined. Our hearing was the first of its kind here in Orange County, and we will work to see that its positive influence is felt statewide.

Question of the Week

Last week’s question: What is the largest country (in population) never to have won an Olympic medal?

Answer: Bangladesh (150 million)

This week’s question: What and where was the highest temperature ever recorded in California?

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