Migrant and Bilingual Education
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Migrant/Bilingual Education

A Call for Equity and Excellence for ELLs in Washington State

Executive Summary

While the population of English language learners (ELLs) steadily increases, districts in Washington struggle to meet their academic needs. This position paper describes the factors leading to the current underperformance of ELLs followed by instructional practices and ELL research. The Bilingual Education Advisory Committee (BEAC) recommendations on how to address improved performance for ELLs in the State of Washington are provided. Washington’s Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP) ‘uses two languages, one of which is English, as a means of instruction to build upon and expand language skills to engage a student to achieve competency in English’ (WAC 392-160-005).

Current Data and Overview

ELL Students in Washington

  • In May 2014, there were 1,055,517 students enrolled in Washington public schools. English Language Learners constituted 110,579 students, or 10.5%, of that population.
  • By 2025: 25% of all students enrolled in U.S. K-12 schools are projected to be ELLs.

Districts Struggling to Meet Needs of ELLs

  • A review of 2013-14 data from OSPI indicates that, of the 295 school districts in Washington State, 0% of the grade levels met the uniform bar of 100% LEP students meeting standard in either Reading or Math without safe harbor (which requires a 10% reduction in students not making AYP).
  • The number of qualifying districts in 2009-10 was 63, almost one quarter of all school districts in the State, and, of those, 100 percent did not make AYP.
  • In 2013-14 in Washington, 86% of ELL students received instruction in some form of alternative program that provides instruction only in English.
  • In 2013-14 only 14% of Washington's ELL students received bilingual instruction.

Under-prepared Teachers

Teacher preparation and certification strongly correlate with student achievement.

  • In 2011-12, only 14 teachers graduated with a Bilingual Education Endorsement (BLE).
  • In 2013-14, TBIP funded 34 Bilingual Education endorsed teachers in Washington state, which is a ratio of roughly one BLE teacher to every 3,252 ELL students.

State and Federal Mandates

  • Washington’s ELL Mission Statement: ‘English language learners will meet State standards and develop English language proficiency in an environment where language and cultural assets are recognized as valuable resources to learning.’
  • Districts are required to provide students with limited English proficiency with a transitional bilingual instructional program or, if not practicable, an alternative instructional program that supports these students through English only (WAC 392-160-005).

Instructional Practice and Research

  • Bilingualism is both a cognitive and academic asset.
  • Students who become bilingual and bi-literate out-perform monolingual English speakers on assessments, yet only 14% of Washington ELL students receive bilingual instruction.
  • Comprehensive research indicates bilingual program models are highly successful in completely closing the achievement gap.

Call to Action – BEAC Recommendations

In order to close the achievement gap for ELL students, OSPI needs to provide support to districts and teachers in providing Washington’s English language learners with a rigorous education that ensures academic success. Therefore, we recommend that OSPI:

Phase 1 (immediate)

  • Uphold the QEC recommendations, including development of a state-wide data system;
  • Develop and utilize improved systems to more accurately assess and differentiate needs of various ELL subgroups in the state;
  • Develop and maintain systems of observation and mechanisms for monitoring student progress;
  • Closely examine ELL performance by district and school to determine the scope of need;
  • Make teacher preparation for ELLs a top priority.

Phase 2

  • Research proven bilingual models, as measured by AYP proficiency targets and other achievement data;
  • Communicate clear expectations to all stakeholders about what quality instruction looks like for ELLs;
  • Bolster accountability system for all stakeholders.

Phase 3

  • Implement, refine and maintain instructional models supported by valid research for ELLs;
  • Assist districts in examining and adopting instructional characteristics of strong ELL programs and integrate these into the ESEA, SB6696 and State CPR compliance processes;
  • Assist school districts in developing bilingual instructional programs;
  • Provide curriculum support that facilitates differentiation for varying levels of language and developmental need;
  • Provide professional development (including coaching and collaborative time) for teachers and administrators to more clearly understand and address the needs of ELLs;
  • Publish expectations for growth and achievement of ELLs by time in program and language proficiency;
  • Increase access to preschool programs designed for English Learners.

Please consult full text of Position Paper for complete analysis and references.

The BEAC Position Paper

Print the executive summary.

Read the full position paper.

Read Superintendent Dorn’s endorsement of the position paper.


   Updated 3/28/2016

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