Opposition to Proposed Rules on Eligibility for ESOL Program Services

WHEREAS, the League of United Latin American Citizens is this nation’s oldest and largest Latino organization, founded in Corpus Christi, Texas on February 17, 1929; and

WHEREAS, LULAC throughout its history has committed itself to the principles that Latinos have equal access to opportunities in employment, education, housing and healthcare; and

WHEREAS, the Florida Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is committed to improving the education of English Language Learners (ELLs); and

WHEREAS, LULAC Florida is the first named plaintiff in LULAC v. Florida Board of Education, the source of the Consent Decree; and

WHEREAS, LULAC Florida expects that proposed ESOL rules will reflect the Consent Decree's dual mandate to provide instruction leading to English language acquisition and academic achievement; offer guidelines to help district personnel accurately identify and classify ELLs who need to be in the ESOL program and those who are ready to achieve academically without program support and thereby contribute to improving the quality of education for all children; treat ELLs fairly and accord them the same expectations for high academic achievement as are held for all other students; conform to national standards for educational testing; comply with the terms of the Consent Decree; and, since the Consent Decree's entry and exit criteria have not changed, match former versions of the rules implementing the Consent Decree; and

WHEREAS, proposed rule 6A-6.0902 (1) (c) proposes to deny service to students pending assessment whose only affirmative response to the Home Language Survey is to the question regarding language of the home; and

WHEREAS, the requirement to provide ESOL services to students pending assessment is stated in the Identification and Assessment section of the LULAC Consent Decree, at C. 1,2, and 5; and

WHEREAS, proposed rule 6A-6.0902 (1) (c) is therefore in conflict with a Federal Court Order; and

WHEREAS, proposed rules on identification and entry (6A-6.0902 (2) (a). 2.); extension of service for more than three years (6A-6.09022 (1), (2); and (3); program exit (6A-6.0903 (1), (2) and (3), 2, and 3) do not conform to the requirements stated in the Consent Decree that students are eligible for ESOL services until they achieve at the 33rd percentile or above on a normed test of reading and writing but instead state that the CELLA and the FCA T will be used as a basis for eligibility determinations; and

WHEREAS, neither the CELLA nor the FCA T is a normed test; and

WHEREAS, Section 1. C. 2 b (1) of the Consent Decree states that II Any student who scores at or below the 32nd percentile on the reading and writing sub-parts of a norm-referenced test shall be determined to be LEP and shall be provided appropriate services." This requirement is repeated in J. 4, stated again in I.E. 1 (a), Classification and Reclassification, and yet again in VI. E. 1. a, b, and c, Outcome Measures, a restatement of the purposes of ESOL Programs that makes it clear that both English language proficiency and academic achievement are program goals and that both must be measured. This explains why eligibility decisions must take into consideration both language proficiency and academic achievement; and

WHEREAS, proposed rules 6A-6.0902 (2) (a). 2.; 6A-6.09022 (1), (2); and (3); and 6A-6.0903 (1), (2) and (3), 2 and 3 are therefore in conflict with a Federal Court Order; and

WHEREAS, the Consent Decree is intended to protect the rights of language minority children; and

WHEREAS, The Florida Department of Education is tasked with upholding the rights of all Students; and

WHEREAS, Decree standards are explicitly identified as minimal in the Settlement Agreement; and

WHEREAS, the public expects ESOL services of sufficient intensity and duration to prepare ELLs to compete effectively in school and after graduation in today's shrinking world and global economy; and

WHEREAS, normed tests provide a means of comparing student achievement with a national norm group that includes native speakers of English while the CELLA is administered only to ELLs and the FCA T is a criterion referenced test; and

WHEREAS, the determination of Ell's academic achievement, in one of the few programs in the state governed by the terms of a federal court order, must have the national dimension afforded only by a nationally normed test; and

WHEREAS, the 1990 version of6A-6.0901 (1) defined Limited English Proficient Student as a student whose home language is one other than English as determined by a home language survey and whose English aural comprehension, speaking, reading, or writing proficiency is below the average English proficiency level of English speaking students of the same age and grade; and

WHEREAS, the purpose of a norm referenced test is to compare a student's achievement with that of a sample of students of similar age and grade from the general school population who make up the norming group, a comparison that can only be made through a normed test; and

WHEREAS, 6A-6.0903 (2) (a) 2a proposes that only one measure, the CELLA, be used as the basis for exit decisions for students in grades K-2; and

WHEREAS, use of only one measure conflicts with national assessment standards; and

WHEREAS, proposed rule 6A-6.09021 masks information by setting cut scores by grade clusters for the CELLA, not on a precise grade by grade basis as is done for the FCAT, despite Board Member Shanahan's April 2008 admonition that ELLs should be treated in the same way as other students in terms of testing policies; and

WHEREAS, the proposed rules perpetuate the use of the CELLA despite concerns voiced by teachers, counselors, and administrators who find that the CELLA is not appropriate for their ELLs and that validity of the test is threatened because only one form of the test has been developed for each grade; and

WHEREAS, changes to the rules on eligibility criteria for ESOL services should not take place before baseline information is available on outcomes from full implementation of the Consent Decree; yet annual reports on the multiple monitoring and evaluation tasks detailed in Sections III, V, and VI of the Consent Decree tasks have not been published; and

WHEREAS, among the proposed rules are those that distort, ignore, or contravene the requirements of the Decree and pay no more than lip service to psychometric principles; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that LULAC Florida urges the State Board of Education to postpone consideration of the proposed rules to provide time for the FDOE to formulate rules that are clear, unambiguous, and conform with legal and professional standards that ensure equal opportunity for the state's quarter million ESOL students. It is not in the best interest of Florida to walk backward on the progress made in the area of effective ESOL services.

Approved this 1st day of July 2011.

Margaret Moran
LULAC National President