Students in the Beginning First Year English Language Development class at Glendale High School in 2010.

Students in the Beginning First Year English Language Development class at Glendale High School in 2010. (Times Community News / November 15, 2012)

Glendale educators continue to make steady gains in turning English language learners into fluent, English-proficient students.

According to the district’s annual language census report, 15% of the district’s English learners were reclassified in 2012 as fluent and proficient.

In Glendale schools, where about 26,000 students speak 69 different languages, 25% of kids are learning English as the district works to bring them to proficiency.

“As our standards go higher and higher, it’s harder to reclassify [students], said Kelly King, director of Glendale Unified’s categorical programs.

And while a gap remains, that there’s a 15% turn rate, “that’s still exceptional,” she added.

In 2012, 744 elementary students and 283 secondary students were reclassified to English proficient — 133 more compared the same period last year.

In elementary schools, 35% of students are learning English. That figure stands at 16% in secondary schools.

Since August, officials have targeted “long time” English learners by creating a specific class for middle and high school students to focus on language development, goal setting and motivation.

For these students, basic English development is no longer necessary to attain proficiency. So King said educators focus on what the road blocks are.

“Those kids, after that many years, what is it? What’s holding them back?” King asked.

The first set of these classes have begun at Glendale High and Wilson Middle School with officials planning to expand these classes to more schools.

At Edison Elementary this year, educators have carved out a time in which all students work in groups at their language level for one half-hour each morning where a large focus is on speaking and listening.

“Teachers are already seeing a difference with kids,” said Wendy Rios, a teacher specialist at the school.

After analyzing results of a statewide test for English learners, Rios said she reclassified more than 60 Edison students out of English language development.

“This time around, I’ve had more than I normally have,” she said.

Both King and Rios credit the district’s commitment to English learners.

Since 2011, bilingual education assistants have increased from 139 to 149, and the number of bilingual teachers has increased by eight since 2011 — from 128 to 136.

“It’s a lot of work,” Rios said. “We are struggling through it, yes, but we’re committed to it."

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan