ELD Program May Move to MVHS

In the print edition of this article, a sentence read, “Currently the ELD populations of LAHS and MVHS are about 25 and 13 percent respectively.” This should have read “Currently the Latino populations of LAHS and MVHS are about 25 and 13 percent respectively.” The online version of this article has been edited.

The district is currently evaluating options in an attempt to balance demographics and best utilize resources for the English Language Development (ELD) program in upcoming years.
One such option is a plan to phase out all ELD course offerings at Los Altos High School in favor of offering one English development program at Mountain View High School. According to school board member Julia Rosenberg, the current plan for next year is “to offer the [ELD] I and [ELD] II levels only at MVHS because there are only a small number of students in the [ELD] program.”
ELD I was discontinued as a course option at LAHS at the beginning of this school year. According to Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Brigitte Sarraf, the district will probably cease to offer ELD II at this school next year and then continue to eliminate ELD III and IV in subsequent years. Any new ELD students to enroll in the district would be sent to MVHS.
“We could do a better job if we could consolidate the students on one campus,” Sarraf said. “[But putting the entire program at LAHS] would very seriously distort our demographic make-up of our campuses.”
Sarraf also added that combining the ELD programs at LAHS, without making any other changes, would be “overburdening Los Altos with one type of population.” According to Sarraf, the district’s current ELD program is “very fragmented and very scattered,” something the district hopes to resolve by consolidating all ELD students on one campus. Consequently, new ELD students will no longer be assigned to LAHS.
“We have been slowly phasing in a decision from years ago to increase the number of [ELD] students at MVHS by assigning all new students to MVHS,” district Superintendent Barry Groves said.
Sarraf specifically acknowledged the school board’s goal to balance the demographics between the two schools, something that she considers to be important “in order for our schools to maintain their overall similarities and academic strengths.” Currently the Latino populations of LAHS and MVHS are about 25 and 13 percent respectively.
“Certainly, [SAT and API scores] are something that factor into it,” Sarraf said. “More importantly, it’s the size of the school, the scope and the breadth of the programs [and] the honors and AP classes offered. …The board is interested in making two schools that are similar demographically.”
According to Rosenberg, this is part of a movement to “meet our students’ needs in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.” Rosenberg characterized the district’s discussions as “ongoing” through “the last few years.”
“It makes sense to group them together for ‘critical mass’ so that we can offer a higher quality program at a lower cost,” Rosenberg said.
According to Sarraf, students who do not pass ELD II this year would be enrolled in “intensive summer school.” If, at the end of the summer, students were still not ready to move to ELD III, they would be given the option to move to MVHS or “interventions” would be made for them to stay at LAHS.
However, Sarraf emphasized that this plan would hinge on how many students enter the district in the next few years.
“It certainly will be something we’ll be watching very carefully,” Sarraf said. “If, all of a sudden, we get an influx of [ELD] students … or a large number of new families moving, we’d certainly revise our plan.”
LAHS has around 80 ELD students, while MVHS has near 60. Sarraf believes that the size of the two schools’ programs will make such a merge economically prudent.
“It’s not cost-effective to be running two,” Sarraf said.
LAHS ELD Coordinator Emily Goodheart believes a consolidation would require “a lot of retooling” of the existing programs. According to Goodheart, MVHS does not offer SDAIE (Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English), a part of the LAHS ELD program.
Goodheart also mentioned that the elimination of ELD I at LAHS has already created a problem. Several students enrolled at this school last year did not complete ELD I, but were “pushed” from the “high end of Level I to Level II.” Her 6th period ELD class is composed of about 5 ELD I students and 15 ELD II students.
“It’s quite difficult to give the kids the attention they deserve,” Goodheart said. “[Next year,] we’re going to have students who are barely at Level II. This will be even worse because at Level III there’s a huge jump in the curriculum.”
Currently, the majority of ELD students live closer to LAHS than MVHS. However, Sarraf believes that this will not be an issue.
“The majority of students would not have to walk any further,” Sarraf said. “The only difference would be for some, and it seems very few—they would have to change to a different bus.”
Sarraf is considering talking to the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to see if it would alter routes and timetables to ease the change.
However, according to Goodheart, ELD students typically request inter-district transfers from MVHS to LAHS, rather than vice versa.
Both Goodheart and MVHS ELD Department Coordinator Patrick Hurley agree that eliminating the LAHS ELD program would deprive the school of its cultural vibrancy.
“Students who are new arrivals to the United States bring so much,” Hurley said. “It’s really a loss of cultural exchange.”