Los Angeles Unified's Beyond the Bell Branch offers a highly effective outreach for English learners (ELs) through high school after school programs. The Language in Action program is part of a larger plan to meet the needs of ELs that includes working with the parents and families. In partnership with two youth development agencies (arc and EduCare), the program is designed to help the district's lowest-performing EL students reach academic and linguistic proficiency.
Through the Language in Action program, English learners participate in:
- Immersion Week: during which EL students build relationships with staff and peers through fun activities designed to improve speaking and listening skills.
- Follow-up Sessions: ten sessions where written and oral English skills are practiced using a project-based curriculum that includes leadership, self-reflection, arts and crafts activities, and a community service project.
- Service-Learning Project: which allows students to develop English skills through writing letters, emails, or making phone calls to engage community partners. Students also participate in reflection activities to practice written and oral English skills.
- College Day: held at a local university where students celebrate their achievements, make presentations about their community service projects, meet EL students from other schools, and take a campus tour.
As external evaluator, ERC compares participants' annual performance on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) with the performance of non-participating ELs at the same schools. The CELDT is used in California schools to identify students who need improvement in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English. In California, students in grades K-12 designated as English learners are required by law to take this test each year in the fall, and may retest multiple times a year until they achieve a score high enough to be reclassified as Fluent English Proficient (FEP).
Between the fall 2012 and fall of 2013:
- ELs who were frequent attenders of both the Language in Action program and the general after school program (30 or more days) gained an average of 39 scale score points on the CELDT.
- ELs who were frequent attenders of the general after school program gained an average of only 2 scale score points on the CELDT.
- During the same time period, the CELDT achievement gap between the two groups was reduced by an average of 39 scale score points (from 79 to 42).
These results indicate that Beyond the Bell's Language in Action program is reducing the CELDT achievement gap between a group of lower-performing English learners and their higher-performing EL counterparts.