New L.A. School Language Groupings Spark Debate Over Best Method Of Learning English

| by Will Hagle

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s new policy of separating English learners of different fluency levels has sparked both outrage and support amongst parents of children enrolled in the city’s public schools. The policy was implemented because, according to NBC Latino, LAUSD Superintendant John Deasy “believes that too many English learners are learning ‘Spanglish’ from their fellow students, rather than proper English.” If students are placed in separate classes according to their abilities, Deasy reasons, they will all learn English in its proper form. 

Many agree with Deasy’s beliefs, claiming that grouping students of similar skill levels in language classes allows them to better learn the proper language together, rather than being influenced by the slang and potentially grammatically incorrect language used by other students. 

Several upset parents argue, however, that students can more rapidly learn English when surrounded by other native or more advanced English speakers at schools.  These critics view the new grouping format as a method of discrimination against the students.

Cindy Aranda-Lechuga, a mother of a kindergartner in LAUSD schools, gathered 162 signatures of school participants seeking to end the policy. Speaking at a recent L.A. Board of Education meeting, Aranda-Lechuga said “Kids with little or no English are going to be segregated and told they’re not good enough for the mainstream. Kids learn from their peers, and they’re not going to be able to do that anymore.” 

Although this policy is only now sparking a city-wide debate, it was actually officially implemented in 2000, the L.A. Times reports. The policy, however, has not been widely practiced until this year, as the L.A. Board Of Education struggled to find ways to respond to complaints from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which cited the district’s failure to properly teach its students English. 

The policy is just beginning to be implemented in schools throughout the LAUSD, despite it already being three months into the current school year.