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Kenji Hakuta Advocates for New Approaches to Calculating EL Progress

January 2017

Kenji Hakuta, Professor of Education at Stanford University, has co-written a commentary piece featured on Edsource entitled Ending the No Child Left Behind Catch-22 on English Learner Progress. With co-author Linda Darling-Hammond, Hakuta highlights problematic features of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for English Learners (EL) and urges the California State Board of Education to seek a more transparent and sensible reporting model for measuring EL progress. Of particular importance is an accountability system that fully represents EL gains. Under accountability provisions associated with NCLB, the most academically advanced ELs often developed proficiency in English just as they made progress in core content, and were reclassified as fluent English proficient. As a consequence, these students’ scores—those which demonstrated the most progress—no longer counted towards EL performance numbers, leading to a mischaracterization (and misunderstanding) about EL achievement in schools. To counteract and move past these detrimental outcomes, Hakuta and Darling-Hammond suggest a more reasonable approach that acknowledges students and schools for the gains they achieve, especially in the context of the state’s accountability system. They also emphasize the need for California’s education system continue to support ELs at all performance levels.