Native American studies and English learner bills signed
(Calif.) Under a pair of bills signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown, the California Department of Education is required to develop a model curriculum in Native American studies, while school administration will be required to inform parents of English learners of their child’s language development progress.
Assembly Bill 738, authored by Assemblywoman Monique Limόn, D-Santa Barbara, charges the CDE with developing the model curriculum over a three-year period. Just last year, the CDE adopted a revised history-social science curriculum framework including instruction relating to Native Americans in the broader context of the early development of the United States.
A second bill, AB 81, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, aims to ensure that parents know whether a school has classified their child as a “long-term English learner” or “at risk” of becoming a long-term English learner” and what the implications of that classification might be.
“Schools must keep parents in the loop about their child’s progress in learning English,” Gonzalez Fletcher said in a statement following the bill’s signing. “It’s the only way parents can make an informed decision about their child’s education. We must do our best to make sure all children, whatever their first language, are given a chance to succeed academically.”
According to the most recent California Department of Education data, approximately 1.4 million students are English learners, and more than 75 percent students classified as long-term English learners in a third of the state’s school districts.
Under Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill, schools must provide families with relevant information and help them take whatever steps necessary to make sure their child succeeds in school in addition to simply notifying them of their child’s language acquisition progress.
Doing so will ensure that students do not go year after year failing to adequately comprehend what is being taught due to language barriers, which can make it nearly impossible for them to participate in class and succeed academically.
Districts already implementing such communication strategies—Chula Vista Elementary School District, for instance—have since seen English learners earn above-average test scores compared to other California students in the same subgroup.
Limόn’s bill does not mandate districts to offer a course in Native American studies, but those that do must make the course available in at least one year during high school. The department must work with the governor’s Tribal Advisor and the Native American Heritage Commission and focus on both federally recognized Native American tribes and California Native American tribes.
According to Limόn, having a model curriculum on Native American studies will ensure teachers provide culturally appropriate and quality lessons to students that reflect the differing cultural characteristics of tribes throughout the state.
Until last summer, California had gone almost 30 years without updating its history and social studies standards. The state delayed the process during the recession, and once the work was picked back up, it was further delayed largely because of the large number of public comments from scores of political, racial and ethnic groups that raised questions of fact and fairness surrounding Native American history and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history, among other topics.