News

Falling short on fluency

New report says English proficiency rate is stagnant or dropping at Mountain View Whisman schools

Mountain View Whisman School District students learning English saw their language proficiency languish or even regress last year, with a steep decline among students attending the district's choice programs -- Mistral and Stevenson elementary schools, according to a recent report.

District officials say more needs to be done to ensure its students are proficient in English by fifth grade, calling it a surefire way to close the achievement gap. The district's revised goal states that 75% of English learners should to be fluent in the language after attending district schools for six years.

Reaching fluency in English is one of the most significant factors in academic achievement, with Mountain View students who have yet to master reading, writing and speaking English falling far behind their peers in both math and English language arts, according to years of standardized testing data. Ensuring students learn English as quickly as possible came to the fore as a top priority for the school board in 2016, and district administrators launched several new programs aimed at improving language fluency.

That goal aimed to fix something that was broken: In 2015, a report by a consulting firm blasted the district for having English language development programs that were "ineffective, inconsistent, and, in many cases, counterproductive." Parents of English learners told school board members at the time that they worried their children were languishing in remedial classes, permanently behind their peers and missing out on enrichment activities like elective classes.

Three years and several initiatives later, district officials say there are still "issues" that need to be resolved, with many of the district's English learners still falling behind and failing to reach reclassification -- a formal designation for students who have reached fluency and no longer need special instructional support for English language development.

Although each school district determines the terms for reclassification a little differently, the shared metric is the state's English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) test. Acing the test with a performance level of "four" is the gateway for students seeking to reclassify as fluent, according to district staff.

Following a cohort of 583 English learners from the 2017-18 school year to the 2018-19 school year, district staff found that 24% of the students made improvements on the ELPAC test, while 47% remained at the same level and 29% did worse. The biggest losses were students transitioning from kindergarten to first grade and first grade to second grade.

The percentage of students who reached performance level four decreased at every school site except Monta Loma, according to district data. The percent of students who met the standard at Mistral sank from 48% of the students to 27%, followed by Stevenson, which dropped from 74% to 48%.

"We saw that students were regressing -- the majority of our students," said Heidi Smith, the district's director of English learner program, at the Sept. 19 school board meeting.

Uncoordinated efforts

After the school board meeting last month, Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told the Voice that district administrators need to be "intentional" about getting kids to reclassification, and that many of the academic support programs are already in place.

But he said a lack of coordination and failure to help kids who are close to reclassification get over the final hurdles is suppressing the number of kids reaching English fluency.

The district has launched several academic initiatives in recent years to bring up English literacy rates, including individualized education classes called Response to Instruction (RTI) and teacher training in a language-focused instructional model called Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). At the Sept. 19 board meeting, Smith said these programs are all successful in their own right, but the way they've been implemented isn't working.

"We realize these efforts are in isolation and aren't working in concert the way they should," Smith said.

Rudolph suggested that the district may need to restructure its process for reclassification, giving students who succeed on the ELPAC test multiple opportunities to meet the remaining criteria to be deemed fluent. In addition to the standardized test, students must also receive a teacher's recommendation, a parent agreement and a second "objective measurement" determined by the district's assessments that shows the student no longer needs support in English language development.

The new goal recommended by Rudolph and district administrators is that 75% of English learner students who entered the district in kindergarten should be reclassified as fluent by fifth grade, increasing to 85% by eighth grade.

That's a high bar compared to other school districts around the state. In California's largest district, Los Angeles Unified, about 64% of students who spent six years in the district reclassified as English fluent, according to data spanning 14 years and more than one million students. Research shows it generally takes students between four and seven years to reach academic English proficiency needed to meet grade-level content.

Board members worried that the high bar was still too low, at least in the context of Mountain View Whisman. After all, as of the 2018-19 school year, 78% of students who enrolled in kindergarten had reclassified as of fifth grade -- exceeding the standard recommended by staff. In other words, the school district is already exceeding its own prospective goal for English learners.

"Why would we set a goal below what has already happened, before we have even taken a close look?" asked trustee Devon Conley.

Rudolph caution that the performance last year is not a sign of things to come, and that the 78% reclassification figure was unusually high. What's more, he said the state assessments for measuring English language fluency completely shifted in 2018 with the roll-out of ELPAC, which could be more challenging than prior standards.

District administrators are also hoping to remedy the precipitous drop in English proficiency among English learners at Mistral Elementary, home to the district's Dual Immersion language program. The school previously taught students in lower grade levels in primarily Spanish, which Rudolph said was delaying Spanish-speaking students from getting the English skills they needed to reclassify. He argues that delaying substantive amounts of testing and exposure to English until fourth and fifth grade automatically puts English learners behind on reaching English fluency.

"At the time when we had the greatest opportunity to reclassify kids, which is younger grades, we're not doing it," he said.

Converting Dual Immersion to a so-called "50/50" model that evenly splits instruction between Spanish and English from kindergarten through fifth grade at the school should give English learners a boost, he said.

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Comments

51 people like this
Posted by Sandis
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 11, 2019 at 2:52 pm

So firing all the principals didn't change the demographics? Weird.


15 people like this
Posted by Mistral parent
a resident of Castro City
on Oct 11, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Let us all remember that during the last few years, (6yrs too long as administrator) at Mistral we had Marcela Simoes de Carvalho who single handedly destroyed and dismantled the Dual Immersion program. This shouldn't reflect on Tabitha Miller because she's only had one year to clean up the mess left by de Carvalho. De Carvalho had teachers shuffled around through the grades, filed grievances against teachers (therefore having teachers moved to other schools not by choice), or teachers just done dealing with an incompetent administration (therefore choosing a transfer) and the district firing her a little too late! I hope parents give Ms.Miller a chance (1yr) is not enough to get our test scores up.


5 people like this
Posted by Ask me how
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2019 at 3:58 pm

ELPAC has as much or more to do with background knowledge than English as a language.
Also, is it yet another dig at our choice programs? If it is not for your kids, nobody forced you to apply. Leave it to the kids who thrive there.


23 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Clap Clap Clap- Great job Dr. Ayinde Rudolph. Are you prescribing a poison pill or actually doing something to treat the district.

Sometimes changes are great, sometimes they make things worse. I have to agree with the later. Changes also cost money and break things more often than fixes them.


18 people like this
Posted by Why so long?!
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Quote:

“The district's revised goal states that 75% of English learners should to be fluent in the language after attending district schools for six years.”

Why should it take SIX YEARS for the district to help students learn the language? That’s absolutely ridiculous. And this is only for 75%. And they’re not meeting the goal!

It should be 1 year, 100%. Why is MVWSD *that* starkly different than Los Altos? You can blame the parents but there are Spanish speakers in Los Altos schools too. This is crazy.


36 people like this
Posted by Gaby
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 11, 2019 at 5:51 pm

Gaby is a registered user.

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


21 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Oct 11, 2019 at 5:52 pm

The district leadership may see " lack of coordination" as the root to the district reclassification problem and whether or not that is true, that assertion deserves to be tested against other possible reasons. One needs to hear directly from the teachers and principals working with the students and families. Asking them what do they really need, in our fortunate community full of riches.

An alternative to the district narrative, it is possible that students are behind because of too much district coordiantion that has led to a deprofessionalization and disincentivizing of educators working directly with the ELL children, leaving educators faitgued by new centralized intiatives that they have little agency.

Research shows ELL students need safe relationships with their teachers and peers, and content that shows relevancy (often tied to art, science, and windows into real world future opportunities). More English and testing in sterile isolation leaves ELL children ever more disengaged, and further focus on testing, as anything other than an usefull datapoint among many other equally useful metrics, excessive focus on testing further dehumanizes the relationship between a teacher and their students.

I applaud the district for seeing the urgency of the achievement gap, but perhaps their teachers are the true source of wisdom and also the solution, not the district office. I urge district teachers to share what is really going on.


5 people like this
Posted by Sandis
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 11, 2019 at 6:43 pm

"Why is MVWSD *that* starkly different than Los Altos?"

Having money gives the luxury of putting effort into children's educations. It's demographics.


17 people like this
Posted by Sandis
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 11, 2019 at 6:49 pm

It's the parents. When the parents have the time, motivation and resources to teach their children English, the situation will improve. A teacher has perhaps two minutes a day to spend one-on-one with each student. Children need twenty minutes or more to learn English.


7 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2019 at 7:52 pm

MV Voice: English fluency rates in school are dropping.

Shows a graphic of a lesson in Spanish.

Me: I think I have an idea why.


22 people like this
Posted by @ Sandis
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2019 at 8:53 pm

20% of the kids at my school are ELL. Their parents both work 2 jobs. They don’t spend a lick of time teaching them at home. They learn English in a year. MVWSD doesn’t lay for extra staff to help. That’s a problem no parents can solve because Rudolph is paying himself and his friends too much to be able to afford the help the students actually need to thrive.


42 people like this
Posted by Mistral Graduate Parent
a resident of Jackson Park
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:20 am

@Mistral Parent

Your nonsense, exaggerations and lies about Ms. DeCarvalho amount to libel. She was not principal for 6 years. She was principal for 2 years. You are conflating your rage with Ms. Lambert's and even Dr. Crates's administrations. Either way, all were stellar administrators who were forced to deal with a district office plagued with toxic leadership. Also, the Spanish Immersion program was systematically dismantled by Superintendent Rudolph to increase English language test scores. It was moved from a 90/10 to a 50/50 model. Plenty of reporting in the MV Voice with show that. Teachers that chose to fight it lost and were either reassigned or resigned. Apparently Ms. Miller's administration, being directed by Superintendent Rudolph, has only made things worse. The results being reported now only show just how much Superintendent Rudolph continues to flail in the wind.


24 people like this
Posted by Loss of Instructional Time
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:25 am

When we talk about improving the language skills of English Language Learners, we must examine how instructioal minutes are being used. One factor impacting the loss of instructinal minutes is District and State assessments.

MVWSD has become hyperfocused on assessment to the detriment of instructional minutes. Below is the assessment calendar for middle schools for 2019-20. These summative assessments are in addition to assessments administered by teachers to monitor progress of recently taught material. To be fair, some assessments are required by the state, but many are not.

The School Board knows knows about these assessments. Are they asking about the loss of instructional time? Are they asking what information is provided from each assessment? What could/should be eliminated? What do teachers see as valuable?

Laura, Jose, Devon, Tamara, and Ellen -- Please start speaking/listening to your constituents (parents, students, and teachers). The voices of the MVWSD District Office is overpowering the voices of your constituents.

• August: All students took the i-Ready Math and Reading Assessments (District required assessments). Students lost at a minimum three days of instruction in Language Arts and Math. Student who did not finish the assessments in two days were then pulled out of class to finish. These students lost one or two additional periods of instruction to finish. Many students were pulled from classes to finish.
• October: English Language Learners will take the Literably test (District assessment). They will lose 2-4 periods of instruction in their English Language Development classes. This assessment provides almost the same data as the i-Ready assessment they took in August.
• November: All students will take their first Writing Benchmark (District Assessment). At a minimum, students will lose 2-3 periods of Language Arts instruction.
• December: i-Ready Math and Reading assessments will be administered again with lose of multiple days of instruction in core classes. Any student who does not finish will be pulled out of classes to finish.
• February: ELPAC test (State required) is given to English Language Learners. They will lose 3-4 period of instruction in their English Language Development classes.
• Februaryr: English Language Learners will take the Literably test (District assessment) again. They will lose 2-4 periods of instruction in their English Language Development classes.
• March: All students will take their second Writing Benchmark (District Assessment). At a minimum, students will lose 2-3 periods of Language Arts instruction.
• April/May: Students will take the SBAC in Math and Language Arts (State required test). Lose of instructional time is approximately 12 hours over two weeks. If students do not finish, they are pulled from classes to finish.
• April/May: i-Ready Math and Reading assessments will be administered again with lose of multiple days of instruction in core classes. Any student who does not finish will be pulled out of classes to finish.


8 people like this
Posted by Shocked
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2019 at 10:14 am

I am amazed at the comments here. As an educator for more than 30 years, I can assure you that one person is not responsible for low scores. It takes many years of impact of many people involved in a child’s life to create low scores. I really hope I am not the only person who can see through the hatred and basic lack of understanding of education in these comments.


42 people like this
Posted by Shocked Parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 12, 2019 at 10:28 am

Shocked Parent is a registered user.

Dear Board President Wilson,

So these are the "fantastic" results you cited as grounds for his latest 14% pay raise?

Shame on you and the board!


Web Link
She [Wilson] also cited his educational leadership, adding that early test results for this year show improved academic performance.

"We're extremely pleased with what we've been seeing in terms of all the changes at the different sites," she said. "Preliminary results for student performance this year -- which haven't yet come out yet -- look fantastic, and we trust in his leadership."


26 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 12, 2019 at 11:11 am

The Superintendent appears to not trust his teaching/school staffs, and instead says that his preferred new programs (RTI at more than $2 million a year and SIOP) are the saviors that-have-not-yet saved. Too bad the Board is not holding him accountable - but instead giving him a hefty total compensation increase!

Exactly as Chris Chiang says - District Office imposed programs (without staff guidance)
The teachers in the past 5-6 years have bitterly complained in their own anonymous union survey, that MVWSD Superintendents introduce new programs without much/any teacher input (District Office staff choses). Is this the case (like Teach To One: Math)? New programs imposed, but not even evaluated Based On the MEASURED OUTCOMES?

Rudolph and Smith need to buck-up and admit that the DO’s favorite “initiatives” have failed. Perhaps by how they themselves “administer.” Will the elected Board hold them to ANY STANDARDS? (the standard, well vetted and tested, is ELPAC, English Language Proficiency Assessment required by the State Department of Education)

Happy teacher workforce? The retention of teachers numbers DO NOT SHOW Rudolph is doing a good job. This is another “teaching effectiveness” problem. It does not appear- ‘by the numbers’ - that the average teacher retention, already 2 years under the county average, and 4 years under the state average, has AT ALL improved under Rudolph’s tenure. (the data is not reported to 1/10 of a year, as it needs to be monitored for any small improvement to be noted By The BOARD).

Extra learning hours/days/weeks/months needed for all English Learners at RISK? Why is the 20% of LCFF money for Supplementary programs not being used for Supplementary hours/days/weeks/months of instruction for K-1st and 1st-2nd graders? +20% of 180 instructional days for impoverished ELL students would greatly help. “Pull out time” like RTI has NOT PROVEN itself (by the numbers).


21 people like this
Posted by Daniel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2019 at 4:56 pm

@Shocked: "I can assure you that one person is not responsible for low scores"

I think that the buck stops with on person: Dr. Rudolph. This is the man who wants to set a goal that's 3 percentage points lower than what the district is already hitting and that everyone here is complaining about. If it's so bad then why are we aiming even lower?


2 people like this
Posted by Sandis
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:23 pm

"20% of the kids at my school are ELL. Their parents both work 2 jobs. They don’t spend a lick of time teaching them at home. They learn English in a year. "

I'm sure you can figure out how many teachers per class would need to be hired to provide 20 minutes of one-on-one instruction for each student. That's not happening.

If your statement about ELL students learning English in one year is half true, you need to take that to the California Department of Education, because they haven't figured it out


8 people like this
Posted by Sandis
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:28 pm

"As an educator for more than 30 years, I can assure you that one person is not responsible for low scores. It takes many years of impact of many people involved in a child’s life to create low scores."

It doesn't. The scores were improving until the superintendent decided to "fix" things.


Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 13, 2019 at 6:44 am

thank you @Loss Of Instructional Time. One of the unforeseen results of the decision to send students home for DAYS, to breath smoky air at home rather than in classrooms, was Loss Of Instructional Time. This time was never made up. (no Snow Day makeup provided/considered).
The Santa Clara County Public Health Department did not ask for instructional shutdown (it did ask for complete elimination of outside activity).
I do not know if midyear instructional time reductions affect young English Learners (K-3rd) more than native English Speakers. There must be peer research out there somewhere/?/

@Loss Of Instructional Time, you seem to be very knowledgeable, any summaries or links?


54 people like this
Posted by Standing Ovation
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 13, 2019 at 7:19 am

Sorry Mr. Nelson. There are much more basic issues that need to be addressed. Over the years this has all become first and foremost a problem of failed board level and senior district office leadership under which your tenure as school board member was marked by a near-complete breakdown in leadership and civil discourse. While I believe you had and have many good points and perspectives, your tact and delivery was grossly ineffective in my opinion.

These are about the worst results and outcome the school district can expect. People should really be alarmed and concerned. It’s both ironic and amazing with perhaps many lessons and takeaways to be had. It's a serious problem that points perhaps to a very real possibility that Superintendent Rudolph, the bloated district office and school board have absolutely no idea what they are doing. I mean wasn’t the whole purpose of firing nearly half the principals several years back based on the accusation that English learners were doing poorly under their tenure? Well shucks. Now they appear to be doing even worse! And what does Rudolph mean when he says there has been a "lack of coordination" in the district programs? Who is exactly responsible for that? What the hell is he paid for? Why the hell was he given a raise?

And why is all the focus of the article on Mistral. Is it because it is a choice school where many affluent and educated white parents choose to send their children to learn a foreign language and therefore a choice whipping post? It would appear The Voice enjoys flogging these parents for somehow being linked to, or even responsible for, bringing down the scores of the school’s English learners. Maybe they are lacking in the attributes of compassion and social justice and partly responsible. If so, why doesn’t the board just close down the school? Oh yeah. Politics.

Second, according to the article and the accompanying chart, scores tanked across all schools with the exception of Monta Loma increasing by one percentage point from one of the lowest ranks. But then there’s Castro School, with the most English Learners in the district, at an embarrassing 23% proficient?? Boy, the alarm bells should really be ringing there since scores like that basically scream a complete breakdown and failure has occurred. And isn’t this Board Member Wheeler’s assigned target school? It just dropped 10% under her direct oversight! Would love to hear her views on all this given the decades she’s been on the school board. Hey, Wheeler, scores are supposed to be going in the other direction!!

I would agree that Mistral’s steep drop can only mean a serious disruption and leadership and expertise vacuum and void has occurred that would seem to point directly at the new principal/crony from Rudolph’s North Carolina district. I mean, who puts someone with zero experience with minimal professional qualifications as a principal in charge of a school like Mistral? And worse, what kind of school board endorses it? Oh wait, would it be a superintendent who has zero experience as a superintendent prior to coming to Mountain View? I’m still trying to wrap my head around how any of these decisions were sound or based on anything but cronyism. Any fool can tell you that if Ms. Miller really had any idea of what she was doing, there is no way scores would have dropped so drastically. For Pete’s sake she was hired supposedly to increase scores not drive them off a cliff! And isn’t this Board Member Gutierrez’s assigned target school? It just dropped 21 percentage points under his oversight and in spite of all his soap box and podium lecturing! Would love to hear his views on all this since he’s been so quick to cast blame over the years while producing negative results as a solution.

Of course, Stevenson’s scores saw the steepest drop of 26% according to the article’s graph while headed up by the newly-promoted Principal Westgate to the district office finance position without any real accounting or financial management experience. Scores basically tanked under Westgate but she gets a promotion? Absolutely surreal.

And what experience in English language learning does Heidi Smith, the district’s Director of English Language Learners, have any way? As far as I know, she doesn’t even speak Spanish fluently. And nor does Superintendent Rudolph. What experience or background does either have in English language acquisition? One would think that would be bare minimum requirements for this district given its long history of dismal performance for Spanish speaking English learners.

And then take a look at the school board. Gutierrez, Blakely, Wilson and Conley haven’t any experience or expertise either. But there is Wheeler who has been around for so long lording over poor test scores and general chaos that one would be hard pressed to not blame her for most of this mess.

Sorry, but the only way this problem is solved is by taking a page out of Rudolph’s own playbook and cleaning house at the district office, starting with Rudolph, and recalling the board or at the very least voting out Gutierrez, Blakley and Wilson in the next election.

BTW, has electric power been restored yet to the Vargas campus? Why is reporting in the dark on that topic?


5 people like this
Posted by @ sandis
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2019 at 9:22 am

Why would I need to take the fact that our school is doing well to the state of California? Maybe Rudolph should visit. Too busy not doing anything? Or dealing with lawsuits against the school district? They aren’t publicized but there are tens of them at any given time. That’s MVWSDs problem. He should humble himself.


6 people like this
Posted by Sandis
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 13, 2019 at 4:21 pm

"Why would I need to take the fact that our school is doing well to the state of California?"

Because low ELL literacy is a statewide problem and apparently you have a magical solution. Especially since native English speakers take more than one year to learn English.


5 people like this
Posted by Ask me how
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2019 at 8:02 pm

To be fair, kids of educated parents usually reclassify within a year.
As I said, ELPAC results are about background knowledge and overall academic aptitude.
It is 90% at home.


2 people like this
Posted by @ Sandis
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2019 at 10:07 pm

Now you’re just trolling. “Native English speakers take longer than a year to learn English”. Not when they’re in elementary school which is what this article is about?

Good luck with MVWSD. You’ll need it, hahahahaha.


9 people like this
Posted by Joel Lachter
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 13, 2019 at 10:24 pm

Joel Lachter is a registered user.

I think some of the assumptions made in this article and the comments may not be correct. In particular, it seems to be assumed that this testing to reclassify actually measures fluency. My information is a bit dated, but this has not been true in the past, and I think it is unlikely that it is true now. The important thing to know is that many children from homes in which only English was spoken could not pass the old CELDT test. You can read the state’s own data that shows this here: Web Link

It is likely that, if this same test was given to students who had only ever spoken English, they would fail in nearly the same proportions as non-English speaking students (controlling for socio-economic status which greatly effects how students perform on these tests as noted by Ask Me Now). While there are a few students who have recently arrived and truly do not know English, if you were to go to any school in the district and talk to randomly selected ELLs you would find that the vast majority of them speak fluent English, by any reasonable definition. The educators will tell you that they don’t know ‘academic English", but, of course, neither do many of the students who grew up in English-only households.


2 people like this
Posted by Don Keedick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 14, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Don Keedick is a registered user.

Does anyone know where the ex-principal of Vargas landed?


Like this comment
Posted by Sophie888
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 14, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Sophie888 is a registered user.

Who would think students in Center of Silicon Valley can not speak fluent English? Even Students from Europe and Asia can speak English fairly well.


6 people like this
Posted by Frank Richards
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 14, 2019 at 11:23 pm

Frank Richards is a registered user.

Case in point, Sophie888, you're obviously not fluent yourself, so let's be a little more understanding for these kids.


2 people like this
Posted by @Loss of Instructional Time
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 15, 2019 at 12:19 pm

@Loss of Instructional Time is a registered user.

Chiming in to add that the District Office is notoriously disrespectul of instructional time. This week and next alone Crittenden students are missing at least 4 instructional periods for:

*the Disaster Preparedness Drill - 10/15 (1.5 hours)

*Run Hide Defend Training - 10/17 (30-45 minutes)

*Run Hide Defend Drill - 10/22 (1-2 hours)

These disruptions to the instructional day throw off the already difficult to manage bell schedule and decrease student learning, with little value being added.


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