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 2009: 8.1 % of 1,035,804 students enrolled in Washington public schools were ELLs.
  • 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

  • In 2010: 206 districts in Washington (69%) did not meet AYP.
  • Over 67% of districts with all ELL subgroups did not make AYP, even when including students who had exited ELL services.
  • Without safe harbor (10% reduction in students making AYP), 100% of school districts with a qualifying ELL subgroup failed to make AYP (25% of failing schools in State).
  • 2010 - 89% of Washington’s ELLs received instruction only in English.
  • 2010 – only 11% of Washington’s ELL students received bilingual instruction.

Under-prepared Teachers

  • Teacher preparation and certification strongly correlate with student achievement, even stronger than student poverty and language status.
  • In 2010 fewer than 200 teachers graduated from a Washington State university teacher-credentialing program with an ELL endorsement.

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 11% 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.

Additional Information

Print the executive summary.

Read the full position paper.

Read Superintendent Dorn’s endorsement of the position paper.

BEAC Members 2012-13

Liz Flynn – Pasco – Executive Committee (Chair)
Bernard Koontz – Highline – Executive Committee (Vice–Chair)
Heather Byington – Shelton – Executive Committee
Ruth Lucero – Warden – Executive Committee
Rosemarie Search – Royal – Executive Committee
Alma Duran – Pasco
Lynne Gadbury – Vancouver
Veronica Gallardo – Seattle
Dr. David Cassels Johnson – Washington State University
Sam Morseau – Kent
Dr. Marsha Riddle Buly – Western Washington University
Michael Shapiro – Mt. Vernon
Dr. Edward Lee Vargas – Kent


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