Laurie Olsen, Ph.D.
Director of the Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL)
Dr. Olsen currently serves as the director of the Sobrato Early Academic Literacy initiative in Redwood City and San Jose schools. She consults with school districts throughout the State of California on English Learner education, and has delivered her acclaimed Secondary School Leadership for English Learner Success series for leadership teams across the state.
Dr. Olsen's career spans four decades of work throughout the nation as a researcher, writer, speaker, advocate, and provider of professional development and technical assistance. She was chief consultant to the PROMISE Initiative, a PreK-12 collaborative across six counties in Southern California, and was the Executive Director of California Tomorrow. She has published dozens of books, videos and articles. Dr. Olsen holds a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Studies in Education from U.C. Berkeley, and serves on the Executive Board of Californians Together.
"I'm going to be sharing with you research I released about a year ago on Long Term-English Learners. Along with the findings, I'm going to share the work that has been going on in districts across California in response to this research. Woven with the research findings, I'm going to share with you the 8 steps that any school or district really needs to go through to begin to dig down into this issue deeper and come up with much more powerful responses for our English Learners. "
"One third of California's English Learners are in secondary schools, but the assumption has been that they are relatively recently arrived immigrants and so our programs and curriculum are designed that way. Those of us that have been working for a long time with English Learners have recognized that there is this other group of students."
"Right now, 59% of the English Learners in our secondary schools have been here more than six years. English Language Learners cannot be permitted to incur irreparable academic deficits. Thus, the name of our report: Reparable Harm."
"The first step that all schools and districts must take is that they have to know the extent and magnitude of the Long Term English Learners issue in your schools."
"Here in California we've seen a drastic narrowing of the curriculum, giving the students only partial academic access. Certainly there's a big equity issue, about who gets a full curriculum and who doesn't. The narrowed curriculum is a very, very large characteristic of the schooling of Long Term English Learners."
"Across the board, Long Term English Learners are in placements that are not designed for them. They are over assigned and inadequately served. This is taking on a huge policy issue as well as a general practice issue in the state. "
"A little over 15% of English Learners in the state of California are CELDT Proficient. Only 10% of those could even test basic on the English Language Arts CST. These are very different measures. "
"We've got the research we need to know what to do. It is not a mystery. And yet, what gets in the way of implementing this research are sets of common beliefs that are so entrenched throughout the education field."
"One of the things we know very clearly now is that the strongest pathway to high levels of proficiency in English and academic success involves the simultaneous development of both languages through a strong foundation of literacy. The skill transfer from one language to the other."
"There is a research base to build on, and we can design programs to meet the needs and to prevent the creation of Long Term English Learners. "
"We have piloted with a number of districts throughout the state. In two years, we have seen a rise in API points, reclassification has increased, and passage rates of English Learner 10th grade CAHSEE scores have increased.
"We have this astonishing, really, horrifyingly large number of students that arrive at our secondary schools as Long Term English Learners. Can't we prevent it from happening? What is going on in Elementary school?"
"The harm that is happening is reparable, but it is substantial. We as a system have to take it on and recognize the many ways it is a massive civil rights and human rights issue that is occurring on our watch.