On December 18, 2019, Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Education hosted the ODE/OSU English Language Learner Partnership Research Symposium at the OSU Portland Center. Presenters shared a set of six policy briefs, all of which are available via the Symposium website. The policy briefs address the following topics:
Better understanding outcomes for multilingual students
Timeframes for students to attain English proficiency and exit EL services
Access to core content for secondary ELs
Newcomers in Oregon schools
Exploring disproportionality in special education for ELs
Family engagement for EL students with disabilities
To share findings with the widest audience possible, Partnership members will also present the policy briefs in two upcoming webinars:
Webinar #1: Better Understanding Opportunities and Outcomes for Multilingual Students, Tues. Feb. 4, 12-1 PM
Webinar #2: Meeting the Needs of All Multilingual Students: Research on Newcomers and ELs with Disabilities, Mon. Feb. 10, 12-1 PM
On April 8, Partnership researchers Dr. Karen Thompson (Oregon State University), Josh Rew (Oregon Department of Education), and Dr. Ilana Umansky (University of Oregon) presented on the need to report outcomes for current, former, ever, and never English learners. Current ELs are students currently classified as ELs. Former ELs are students who have exited EL services. Ever ELs includes all students ever classified as an EL, and therefore is the current and former EL groups combined. Never ELs are students who were never classified as an EL. Presenters described the way this reporting approach has been implemented by the Oregon Department of Education, the contexts in which it is being used, and the insights it has generated.Understanding outcomes for English learners (EL) is complicated by the fact that once students develop English proficiency and exit EL services, their outcomes are no longer reported as part of the EL subgroup. As students exit the EL category, the proportion of former ELs increases at higher grade levels, while the proportion of current ELs decreases. Therefore, outcomes for the full group of ever ELs at the secondary level are quite different than outcomes for current ELs, as illustrated in the table above, which compares the percentages of students in each group who are considered on-track to graduate by the end of 9th grade.
ODE-OSU Partners discussed several important factors in serving exceptional English learners, including: documenting students’ language proficiency and language-learning needs in IEPs; professional collaboration among content-area teachers, language acquisition specialists, and special education teachers; using multiple sources of assessment data; best instructional practices; and services for English learners with significant cognitive disabilities. The presentation ended with a discussion on barriers to professional collaboration, including fragmentation and the specialization trap as identified in the research of Sara Kangas (“A cycle of fragmentation in an inclusive age: The case of English learners with disabilities”, 2017).
On April 7, Partnership researchers Dr. Karen Thompson, Dr. Katherine Rodela, Cameron Fischer, and Dr. Jamey Burho presented findings related to parent engagement in the reclassification process for English learner students with disabilities at a symposium at the 2019 AERA Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada. The symposium was chaired by Dr. Sara Kangas and focused on equity and opportunities for English learner students with disabilities. Amother partnership researcher, Dr. Soyoung Park, also contributed to the symposium, with a presentation on cultural and linguistic biases involved in the special education identification process of English learners.
Dr. Thompson and Dr. Burho represented the research team, and focused their presentation on critical preliminary findings related to parent engagement and parent-school communication in the reclassification for ELSWDs.
One critical policy question the ODE-OSU Partnership has explored is how best to monitor and report achievement for English learners (ELs), especially in comparison to their non-English learner (non-EL) peers. At the National Network of Education Research-Practitioner Partnerships (NNERPP), our team presented an Infographic (also see left, below) that illustrates one of our most important findings to date.
Traditional measures have compared ELs to non-ELs, showing a lower graduation rate for ELs (53% vs. 76%). This analysis is misleading. Our researchers have considered the full group of students who enter school as ELs– current ELs plus former ELs—and have created a more complete category for analysis: Ever English learners (Ever ELs). We have discovered that Ever ELs graduate at almost the same rate as non-ELs (71% compared to 76%). In fact, former ELs graduate at a higher rate than non-ELs (78% vs. 76%).
This new, more detailed analysis offers a critical perspective on school and district effectiveness.
Partnership researcher Dr. Karen Thompson, and her collaborator, Dr. Michael J. Kieffer of New York University, found in their study of National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data, that multilingual students grew substantially in math and reading scores between 2003 and 2015. In fact, these students, at grades 4 and 8, grew at a rate two to three times greater than their monolingual peers. This finding challenges the misperception that multilingual students experience little academic gain.
Multilingual students are defined as students who report a primary home language or languages other than English. There was little evidence that cohort characteristics such as racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, or regional composition influenced these gains. Such promising trends are evident thanks to a research focus of examining scores for students characterized as “Ever English Learners“- this group includes current English learners (ELs), as well as former ELs. Analyses that ignore results for former ELs often fail to detect the gains that multilingual students as a whole are making in schools.
A recent Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) report published by our partnership researchers seeks to guide educators on how best to support recently arrived immigrant English learners (RAIELs). RAEILs are a diverse group of students who make up about 1 percent of the overall student population in each state. They include refugee students, migrant students, unaccompanied minors, students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFEs), and students with disabilities. On average, they come from low-income families, with a majority from Spanish-speaking homes. Most RAIELs enter U.S. schools in kindergarten. RAEILs are a critically important, but overlooked and poorly understood student population.
This report examines academic outcomes and experiences for RAEILs in two U.S. states. In both states, RAEILs scored similarly in standardized tests to other English learner students, but far below non-immigrant, native English speakers. Graduation rates for RAEILs ranged from 30 to 60 percent. In the one state where information was available about the services RAEILs receive, the authors found that few received instruction within specialized newcomer programs. Instead, these students tend to receive sheltered content instruction, and separate ELD classes at the middle and high school levels.
The report concludes with a series of policy recommendations, including 1) building data collection systems to learn more about RAIEL students and their progress; 2) provided targeted supports that address a continuum of needs; and 3) create policies specially tailored to supporting these students.
Following Dr. Park’s presentation, Dr. Jamey Burho facilitated a panel among representatives from four Oregon School Districts- Beaverton, David Douglas, Medford, and Woodburn- to talk about their efforts to bring Special Education and ELL specialists together in support of English Learners with disabilities. Among the topics discussed were cross-specialization professional development for EL and Special Education teachers, establishing a common language among all personnel, and logistical challenges for scheduling in-person collaboration.
Researchers from the ODE/OSU partnership recently published an article on researcher-practitioner partnerships for the journal Educational Researcher. Understanding researcher-practitioner partnerships is critical, since such collaboration has become prominent within education in recent years. Funders, including the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Spencer Foundation, have created grant programs to support these partnerships.
In the article, Dr. Karen Thompson, Dr. Martha Martinez, Chelsea Clinton, and Dr. Guadalupe Diaz draw on the ODE/OSU partnership, plus analyses of 41 other similar partnerships, to describe four different types of research questions that emerged. These investigations relate to 1) data quality [providing information about the availability, validity, and reliability of data]; 2) information gathering [providing answers to descriptive and/or predictive questions]; 3) evaluation [asking, “What is the effect of this program or policy?”]; and 4) design questions [asking, “What new materials, activities, and/or systems would address this problem?”].
The authors conclude that the most effective research questions are those that fulfill practitioners’ and researchers’ different needs, and also seek results that can lead to meaningful improvements in education.
Dr. Soyoung Park, an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Texas at Austin, is a collaborator in our ODE/OSU partnership and national expert in supporting English learners with disabilities. She led an initiative with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to develop the English Learners with Disabilities Guide.
The purpose of the guide is to help states create policies for identifying and best serving English learners with disabilities. The guide focuses on collaboration among English learner, special education, and general education personnel; interventions for preventing inappropriate special education referrals; culturally and linguistically responsive practices; comprehensive evaluation measures; professional development; and suggestions for IEP teams.
At the March 2018 State English Learners Alliance Conference hosted by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, Dr. Park presented a draft of guidelines for exiting English learners with disabilities. You can access her Power Point presentation here: Park_ExitingELSWD_PreConference_3.7.18.