Los Altos High will have a program for students learning English starting this fall | News

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For the first time in over a decade, Los Altos High School will once again have a program to support students learning English.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School Board of Trustees voted unanimously at a Monday, Jan. 24, meeting to offer English language development classes at Los Altos High starting in school year 2022-2023.

The district’s English language development program has been consolidated at Mountain View High since 2010, meaning English-learning students who would normally attend Los Altos High have had to either change schools or forfeit services targeted. Although Los Altos High has academic support classes, it does not offer classes that directly teach English to students, Associate Superintendent Teri Faught said.

Despite the absence of these classes, many students who qualify for the English Language Development Program choose to stay in Los Altos. This school year, 66 students learning English chose to stay at Los Altos High, while 92 transferred to Mountain View, according to data presented Monday by Faught.

Those changing schools often face a long commute to campus each day. Many use public transport, Faught told the board, which often involves multiple buses and can take an hour each way.

“We heard over and over again from these students and their parents about the difficulties of transportation … to Mountain View High School,” Faught said.

The majority of students learning English in the district live within the Los Altos High attendance boundaries, with only 76 residing in the Mountain View High area.

Students staying at Los Altos saw less progress in learning English than their peers attending the dedicated program at Mountain View High. In the 2020-2021 school year, 48% of English learners at Mountain View High progressed at least one level in English, compared to just 27% at Los Altos High, according to state data presented by Faught. On the other hand, 27% of English learners in Los Altos actually dropped at least one level, compared to 12% in Mountain View.

The problem, Faught said, is not with the schools themselves, but is due to the lack of focused classes teaching written and spoken language, grammar and translation at Los Altos High.

Administrator Debbie Torok was supportive of restarting the English language development program at Los Altos High, saying she remembers when it was originally consolidated at Mountain View.

“Over the years, we’ve seen an increasing number of EL-eligible students staying at Los Altos,” Torok said. “I think now that the numbers are increasing to the level they are, it justifies bringing an EL program back to Los Altos High School.”

The board unanimously approved up to $320,000 to fund the program at Los Altos High next school year. The plan is for the program to grow based on student needs, with more services offered over time, Faught said.

Students who live in the Los Altos High attendance area but are currently attending Mountain View High will have the option of staying or returning to their home school. New students will be assigned to their normal high school, depending on where they live.

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