Sacramento, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 753 into law Saturday. The new law, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), removes barriers California’s English Learners face when working to achieve English proficiency. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2012.

An English Learner is a K-12 student who is deemed not proficient in English. More than 1.4 million California K-12 students are English Learners, and only 11 percent are reclassified Fluent English Proficient each year.

“I am very pleased Governor Brown signed SB 753. California’s future workforce is in our classrooms today. We need to remove illogical, arbitrary barriers to fluency. That’s exactly what SB 753 does,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

“Forty-eight other states administer English Learner assessments in the spring,” said Senator Padilla. “By adopting the de-facto national standard we will increase the number of students who are successfully reclassified and afford them the opportunity to take A-G courses that are required for college admission,” he added.

SB 753 reforms how English Learners are evaluated in California schools by moving the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) from the fall to the spring. This will provide teachers time to work with, and help students reach English proficiency for their grade level. Most other standardized tests, such as the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) exam, are administered towards the end of the academic year.

The new law will also ensure that a student is no longer required to retake portions of the CELDT for which the student has previously tested proficient within specific grade spans. Currently, students must retake sections for which they have previously tested proficient. This redundant policy is inconsistent with many other state tests, including the California High School Exit Exam and the California Basic Educational Skills Test, which determines the proficiency of teachers.

Achieving proficiency on the CELDT is the first critical step to becoming reclassified as Fluent-English Proficient. Reclassification is vital to career and college readiness. Once reclassified as Fluent-English Proficient, students are able to participate in courses which are required for admission to both the California State University and the University of California systems.

A Tomas Rivera Policy Institute study found that reclassification at any point during the middle school years was associated with improved likelihood that students would stay in the 9th grade, pass the California High School Exit Exam, take an Advanced Placement course in high school, or stay in high school. The findings suggest that furthering English-language learning has considerable potential to keep students in high school through graduation.

Senator Alex Padilla represents more than 850,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District which includes most of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.