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October 12, 2016

Lessons for California’s Prop. 58 on Bilingual Ed

Bilingual Education requires patience and flexible thinking.  Hopefully Californians will have both of those things as they go to the polls in November.  Prop. 58 is a ballot initiative that would undo 1998’s Prop. 227, which drastically reduced bilingual education for the state’s 1.4 million English Learners (ELs).  To put this in context, 42% of Californian students speak a language other than English at home and 22% of Californian students are learning English at school.  In 1998, the state overwhelmingly supported a shift to English-only education, though school districts and parents did have some options to continue using students’ native languages.

Political rhetoric abounds when addressing the language of education, so for today we’ll put opinions aside and look at the argument that both sides are making about how students learn.  Do English-immersion or bilingual/dual-language programs provide better outcomes for students?  Even as a former bilingual teacher, I sometimes struggled against the intuition that said that my students would learn English best by teaching only in English, even though I knew that research said otherwise.  So, it’s understandable that others would have the same wonderings.

As is the case in most questions of research, the results are somewhat mixed and nuanced.  But, in this case, they lean toward the side of bilingual education.

Luckily, California was smart and planned for the evaluation of Prop 227.  This evaluation found that English language acquisition programs were similar in results, and may vary by school capacity, teacher supports, and program details.  The achievement gap between ELs and native English speakers narrowed slightly during the same time frame, but cannot be attributed solely to Prop. 227.

However, other research from the same time period has found that even though ELs acquire English faster in English-immersion programs than various forms of bilingual programs, students are actually more likely to be deemed proficient in English if they spend more time in their native language through dual-language and bilingual programs.  Schools that only spend 1-3 years in a student’s native language, known as “transitional bilingual,” have very similar results as English immersion.  The most promising bilingual model is called “two-way dual-language,” in which native English speakers and ELs are in classes together, both learning English and the second language (typically Spanish).

Bilingual Ed

We also have to consider the benefits of fostering bilingualism and biliteracy.  Research shows that bilingual people may experience later onsets of dementia and have improved cognitive abilities.   The economy may flourish with greater opportunities for cross-national trade and understanding.  “Soft” student outcomes such as attendance and engagement are often shown to increase when they participate in bilingual programs.  Students and families may see more value in education and themselves as their language and culture are positively addressed.

The downside to some bilingual education programs is that they may segregate ELs from other students in special classes.  Also, they typically cost more, as schools often have to pay stipends or other incentives to attract bilingual teachers.

As is true for most educational programs, results depend on the inputs invested: teacher capacity and training, parental support, administrative supports, and equitable policies.  All of our students deserve to learn in an environment that values them and their cultures.

Filed under: Achievement Gaps,CPE,English Language Learners — Tags: , , — Chandi Wagner @ 3:46 pm

June 4, 2015

Yet Another Report Touts Record High School Graduation Rates

EdWeek’s annual Diplomas Count report shows that the U.S. high school on-time graduation rate has hit another all-time high with 81 percent of students graduating within four-years of entering high school.  You may remember last month another report found the same. Both reports were based on similar data so it is not surprising they found similar results.

One difference is that this most recent report sheds a brighter light on disparities between different groups of students. An examination of EdWeek’s data shows that in 2013—the most recent year graduation rate data is available—the poverty gap in on-time graduation rates is as large as 16 percentage points in Minnesota to just one percentage point in Kentucky.  Nationally, the gap between white students and their black and Hispanic classmates continues to narrow. Again, the gaps differ significantly from state to state.

While the overall story is certainly good news, the persistent gaps are still troubling. Gaps are particularly large between special education students and the general student population as well as between English Language Learners (ELL) and native English speakers. So while significant progress has been made, there is a lot more work to be done until all students enter high school with a similar chance to graduate high school four years later.


The Findings

National Graduation Rates

  • The national graduation rate hit another all-time high.
    • Eighty-one percent of students who entered 9th grade in the fall of 2009 graduated with at least a standard high school diploma by the summer of 2013 — the highest level seen since the late 1960s.
      • Between 2011 and 2013 the graduation rate increased 2 points.
      • Graduation rates had remained relatively stagnant between the late 1960s and early 2000’s.
  • Large attainment gaps also remain between traditionally disadvantaged groups and their more advantaged classmates.
    • 16 point gap between white and black students (71 and 87 percent).
    • 12 point gap between white and Hispanic students (75 and 87 percent).
    • Seventy-three percent of students from economically disadvantaged families graduated on-time.
      • This is 8 points lower than the national average.
    • Just 62 percent of Students with Disabilities graduated on-time.
      • This is 19 points lower than the national average.
    • Only 61 percent of Limited English Proficient students graduated on-time.
      • This is 20 points lower than the national average.

State Graduation Rates

  • Most states have improved their graduation rates since 2011.
    • All but six states (Arizona, Illinois, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming) improved their on-time graduation rates between 2011 and 2013.
    • Nevada made the greatest improvement by increasing their graduation rate from 62 to 71 percent (9 points) during this same time period.
      • New Mexico and Utah both improved their graduation rates by 7 points as well.
  • Large gaps remain between states
    • There is a 28 percentage point gap between Iowa –the state with the highest graduation rate (90 percent)– and the District of Columbia which has the lowest graduation rate (62 percent).
    • Only seven states (Alaska, District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon) have graduation rates that fell under 75 percent while 21 states have graduation rates of at least 85 percent.
    • In Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota there is a 15 point gap between the graduation rates of economically disadvantaged students and their state averages.
      • In six states (Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Indiana, and District of Columbia) the gap is 5 points or less.
    • In Mississippi just 23 percent of Students with Disabilities (SWD) graduated on-time which is 53 points lower than the state average (76 percent). Mississippi had both the lowest graduation rates for SWD and the largest gap.
      • On the other end of the spectrum Arkansas had the highest graduation rate for SWK (80 percent) while Alabama had the smallest gap (3 points).
    • Three states (New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Texas) had graduation rates over 80 percent for black students.
      • Three states (Minnesota, Nevada, and Oregon) had graduation rates of less than 60 percent for their black students.
    • Eleven states graduated at least 80 percent of their Hispanic students on-time.
      • Minnesota was the only state to graduate less than 60 percent of their Hispanic students.


February 3, 2014

Early Education: Ups and Downs Since the Great Recession

Recent years have shown an increased interest in early learning for children in the birth-through-eight age span. However, this increased interest coincided with the Great Recession in the United States, and the funding levels for programs for children in pre-K and the early elementary grades have fluctuated wildly since the start of the recession.  New America’s Education Policy Program recently released “Subprime Learning”, a report summarizing the triumphs and trials of early education in the last five years.

One of the largest areas of improvement in the last five years has been in the development of new systems and programs to support birth-to-eight learning. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included close to $11.2 billion for early education (including K-3) and $6.3 billion for birth-to-five programs. Infrastructure is improving across the board with the introduction of competitive programs like Race to the Top that encourage improving data and evaluation systems. The creation of the Common Core Standards means that states are more on the same page than ever before with regard to early education standards, and have been working to create infrastructure that should encourage more collaboration and sharing of information between birth-to-five programs and elementary schools.

There has also been some progress in pre-K access.  Although funding has been cut in many states, universal programs such as those in Oklahoma and Georgia have increased access and Mississippi started a small pre-K program in 2013. Approximately 42% of four-year-olds in the United States are enrolled in some type of public preschool (either pre-K, Head Start, or a special education preschool program), which is up from 40% of four-year-olds in 2009.

Although there is no national testing of children before the age of eight, there are improvements being seen when students are tested at the end of this age spectrum.  Fourth-grade math and reading scores have improved on the NAEP over the last five years, but there still exists enormous achievement gaps between low-income and non-low-income students. This is especially concerning since there are increasing numbers of American children living in poverty: the percentage of children living in poverty increased by five percentage points in the last five years.  Furthermore, little progress has been made with regard to dual language learners and special education students, as their achievement scores have remained stagnant over the last five years.  These are some of the students who would benefit most from early interventions and extra support in the early years of their education, so it is of the utmost importance that our schools make these students a priority moving forward.

Another hurdle for early education is that school improvement programs such as the federal School Improvement Grant program do not require improvements to pre-K-3rd grade, and limited data makes it difficult to determine if there has been any true impact on children in early elementary grades as a result of school improvement programs. Additionally, implementing standards for teachers in early grades where students are not tested has proved difficult.  Since teachers educating children up to age eight are teaching grades and subjects that are not covered by standardized tests, schools have been seeking alternative ways to show student progress in the early grades, but in many states observational tools have not been validated for use in the early grades either.

While there have certainly been some things to celebrate in early education in the last five years, such as improved test scores for fourth-graders, some disconcerting trends came out of this report as well. Just because students are not tested in the younger grades doesn’t mean that early elementary grades should be neglected when it comes to school improvement and teacher quality, as learning and building upon the fundamentals in pre-K-3rd is an extremely important period for a child’s emotional and intellectual development. Furthermore, the lack of progress for special education students and dual language learners is disheartening. While these are two populations facing some of the biggest challenges to learning, they would also benefit the most from increased support in the early years. I certainly hope that as the economy continues to recover, schools and districts will be able to dedicate the funding and resources necessary to help these students achieve.

Check out CPE’s research on pre-K and kindergarten, English language learners, and special education for more information.

-Patricia Campbell

Filed under: Achievement Gaps,CPE,English Language Learners,preschool,Public education — Patricia Campbell @ 7:00 am

November 21, 2013

Don’t ignore international assessments

The U.S. will once again see how our nation’s high school students stack up against their peers in 65 other countries in reading, math, and science when the 2012 PISA results are released on December 3rd. PISA results typically garner a lot of attention because it’s the only assessment that compares the knowledge and skills of high schools students in nearly every industrialized nation in the world in reading, math and science.

Unfortunately, the U.S. typically doesn’t compare well to other countries on PISA especially in math and science. In 2009—the last time PISA was administered– 23 countries outperformed the U.S. in math while 18 countries outperformed the U.S. in science. The U.S. faired better in reading by performing as well as or better than all but 8 countries. These results show there is plenty of room for improvement.

Critics often use these results to argue that our schools need to do a better job preparing our future workforce or risk an economic disaster. While others argue that results from international assessments such as PISA are meaningless and should all but be ignored. I’ll bet most of the rhetoric after the PISA results are released will fall within these two camps.

However, as I wrote in our Guide to International Assessments we should get beyond such rhetoric and use the results to learn from other countries on what is working for their students. And not just those countries who score higher than we do either. We should also look at those countries that have made the greatest gains and check out what changes they made that may have contributed to their newfound success. We should also look deeper into the data to determine which countries did a better job educating certain students. For example, CPE delved deep into PIRLS- 4th grade reading international assessment—and found that language minority students perform as well in the U.S. as language minority students in other industrialized countries. Similar analyses should be conducted in other subjects and with other student groups, too, to gain a better understanding of what is working in schools around the globe.

While PISA results should not be used as the sole measure of the effectiveness of our schools, it is one tool that should not be ignored. PISA provides valuable information on how prepared our students will likely be for life after high school. But other information should be used, such as high school graduation rates, college persistence and graduation rates, as well as unemployment rates for recent graduates to gain a greater perspective on how well our high schools are preparing our students. Just like PISA none of these measures alone provides a complete picture of the quality of our public schools but they each provide valuable information that should not be ignored. – Jim Hull

March 30, 2012

Left in the margins

In my last blog post I briefly touched on how Asian American students are being missed by the data collection radar.  For the purposes of understanding the statistics more clearly, it makes sense to present information included in the report. The report, which was created by the  Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund is titled Left in the Margins: Asian American Students and the No Child Left Behind Act.

California (169,000) holds the largest concentration of Asian American English Language Learners. However, New York (39,000), Texas (21,000) and Minnesota (15,000) also have large populations of Asian American English Language Learners.

Some interesting data presented includes:

Nearly one out of four (24%) Asian American students is an ELL student, compared to only two percent of non-Hispanic black and one percent of non-Hispanic white children. Additionally, 31% of Hispanic students are ELL students.

Asian Americans constitute 12% of all ELLs nationwide even though they are only 5% of the total population. They account for over 10% of state ELL populations in 28 different states, including some of the states with the largest ELL populations—California (15%), New York (13%), and New Jersey (12%).

The four largest Asian ethnic ELL populations nationwide are (see Figure 3): Chinese (115,000), Vietnamese (95,000), Korean (51,000), and Asian Indian (47,000). 

Some of the recommendations set forth by the organization include:

• Require training in ELL teaching methodology and multicultural awareness for all teachers.

Personally, I’m a huge advocate for multicultural education.  Not only does it benefit students who have been historically marginalized, but it also helps the entire student population gain a deeper understanding of other cultures.

• Provide states with funding to translate school documents, hire interpreters, and conduct community education for immigrant families.

• Require every state to collect comprehensive data that is disaggregated by ethnicity, native language, socioeconomic status, ELL status, and ELL program type.

This would help build a better understanding of who our ELLs are across the country.

In the end, it is important to understand what populations make up our ELL students, so we can figure out how to provide better support. –Joyti Jiandani

Filed under: Demographics,English Language Learners — Joyti @ 11:25 am

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