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Letter from Fellows to California Education Committee in Support of AB2735

April 5, 2018

The Honorable Patrick O’Donnell
Chair, Assembly Education Committee
1020 N Street, Room 159
Sacramento, California 95814

RE: AB 2735 (O’Donnell) as introduced – SUPPORT

Dear Chairman O'Donnell:

As classroom teachers and Teach Plus teaching policy fellows, we write to express our support for AB 2735 and its intent to to ensure that students classified as English learners are not denied enrollment in academic courses.

California schools enrolls 1.4 million emergent bilingual students, also referred to as English Learners, representing approximately 21% of all students enrolled in the state’s public schools. Research shows that these students are less likely to be enrolled in core academic courses including English language arts, mathematics, and science, and, as a result, earn fewer credits than non-English learners. This directly impedes their ability to graduate from high school and achieve postsecondary options.

This issue has been created in part by English language development classes being used as substitutes for, rather than complements to, English language arts classes. Limited access to core curriculum can be detrimental to how fast emergent bilingual students can accelerate their English literacy levels.

AB 2735 addresses this issue by prohibiting middle and high school emergent bilingual students from being denied enrollment in core curriculum courses, and courses required for middle school grade promotion or high school graduation. This bill also prohibits the exclusion of emergent bilingual students from A-G courses and advanced coursework on the sole basis of their classification as English learners. We appreciate the acknowledgement of the unique but varied needs of newly arrived immigrant students who are enrolled in English courses designed to meet their need to rapidly acquire basic English skills and would appreciate the opportunity to continue to work with the author to refine the bill to ensure that those students are also being given an equitable opportunity to learn.

As teachers, we work daily to provide access and opportunities for all students. The structural disadvantages imposed upon emergent bilingual students in California make it difficult for them to achieve success, despite their efforts. We believe that this measure is a first step in enabling more of our emergent bilingual students to succeed in school and improve their ability to pursue postsecondary education. For this reason we are pleased to support AB 2735 and hope to continue to work with the author to ensure it acknowledges the needs of newcomer students as well. We urge you to consider how this bill could promote equal access and opportunities for English learners in California.

If you have any questions about our position, please do not hesitate to contact us at
kjblackbu@gmail.com (Katherine Blackburn) or herreraamelia@comcast.net (Amelia Herrera).

Sincerely,

Katherine Blackburn
5th Grade Teacher
Manzanita Community School, Oakland Unified
2018-19 Teach Plus Fellow

Amelia Herrera
English Language Development Teacher
Grace Davis High School, Modesto Unified
2018-19 Teach Plus Fellow

CC: Members of the Assembly Education Committee
Tanya Lieberman, Assembly Education Committee