More students catching on to English
North County Times
March 18, 2004
By: ERIN WALSH - Staff Writer

Students in North County, Southwest Riverside County and all over the state are becoming better English speakers, according to test scores released Thursday by the California Department of Education.
The results are from the 2003-04 California English Language Development Test, which is designed to test the English skills of California public school students in families that speak languages other than English. In North County and Southwest Riverside County, most of the students who took the test last fall came from Spanish-speaking families.

The test measures language ability, but is not designed to test a student's progress in academic subjects like history, essay writing, math or science. Unlike other state standardized tests, there are no government rewards or punishments riding on the scores.

Of the approximately 98,000 San Diego County students who took the test, 40 percent scored proficient in English ---- meaning they could read, write and speak at a level the state considers fluent. That's up from 32 percent scoring proficient last year.
In North County, three-fourths of school districts posted higher proficiency rates than the county, with 40 percent to 66 percent of students in the proficient range. About 15,400 North County students took the test. Almost every school district in North County has more fluent students than it had last year. The biggest jumps were in the San Pasqual Union School District, the Vallecitos Elementary School District in Rainbow and the Vista Unified School District.
In Riverside County, 39 percent of students from non-English-speaking homes scored proficient on the exam, up from 31 percent last year. About 68,500 students took the test.
In Southwest Riverside County, where about 1,600 students took the test, all districts posted higher scores than the county. In districts there, 42 percent to 57 percent of students could read and write fluently in English. Every Southwest Riverside County district has more English-fluent students this year than it had last year. The largest increase in proficient students was at Lake Elsinore Unified School District, where 48 percent of non-native speakers scored fluent on the test. Last year, 36 percent of such students were proficient.
Throughout all of California, 39 percent of the state's 1.4 million non-native English speakers are proficient in English, according to the report. Last year, 30 percent of the state's students were proficient.
State education chief Jack O'Connell called the scores a good sign but said the state still has a long way to go when it comes to getting all of its students to read, write and speak well in English.
"Compared to the rest of the nation, California has the greatest number of students whose primary language is not English," O'Connell said in a written statement Thursday. "There is still much to be done to meet the educational needs of English learners, but we should be quite heartened by the progress that indicates California is on the right track."
Local education officials said they also are encouraged by the scores but cautioned schools and the public not to use the language test to assess students' progress in academic subjects. Other tests, known as the California Standards Tests, measure academic progress.
"It's wonderful if kids are advancing on the (language test), but that's not enough to know how well a school is doing with its English learners," said Jack Tierney, an assessment manager for the San Diego County Office of Education.
"If you're a parent or a teacher, you have to look at whether kids are also improving on the California Standards Tests," Tierney said. "If they're not, it doesn't matter how well they're doing on this language test."
For more information about the test or to find individual school and district scores, go to
Contact staff writer Erin Walsh at (760) 739-6644 or