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. Through the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), she and colleagues published a report that calls for additional research and policy guidance for supporting English language learners with disabilities.

The report explains that little research exists regarding best practices for this population. This gap is troubling in light of the growing number of dually identified students who struggle academically, and the fact that teachers require more focused training to support these learners. Dr. Park and colleagues recommend that the federal government and state and local education agencies collaborate to conduct research and develop guidance on the following: 1) identification, assessment, and eligibility determination for English learners with disabilities; 2) special education and targeted intervention to meet these students’ needs; 3) policies for appropriately exiting these students from ELL and special education services; 4) recommendations for effective family engagement.

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.

The journal Exceptional Children recently published a paper from our researchers in the ODE/OSU ELL Partnership. The featured study tests the effect of the ever-EL framework, a method for including current and former ELs in considering outcomes for all students who entered school as ELs.

Partnership researchers Dr. Ilana Umansy, Dr. Karen Thompson, and Dr. Guadalupe Diaz compared the use of current-EL and ever-EL frameworks to understand how English learners K-12 are proportionally represented in special education, and more specifically within the different disability categories. They found that current ELs are highly overrepresented in special education at the middle and high school levels. However, there was no evidence of overrepresentation of ever-ELs at these higher grades. In fact, ever-ELs were significantly underrepresented in special education overall and in most disability categories.

Patterns for reclassification (exiting students from EL services), might help explain these results. ELs with disabilities are far less likely than ELs without disabilities to exit EL services. The outcome is a bottleneck, with a substantial proportion of dually identified students remaining in EL services at the secondary level.

We are honored to be highlighted by the Spencer Foundation as a featured grantee. Spencer launched a new grant program to support research-practice partnerships in 2015, and the ODE/OSU ELL Partnership was one of seven partnerships funded as part of their first cohort.

At the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in 2017, we had the opportunity to join with other partnerships in this cohort to share lessons learned. Our contribution to this session focused on the affordances and constraints of research-practice partnerships at the state level.

As a featured grantee, we provide information on Spencer’s website about our partnership, related publications, and additional materials. We are excited about this opportunity to share our work and potentially spark ideas for those involved in launching or sustaining research-practice partnerships.

The New America Foundation recently released a report that highlights the work of the ODE/OSU ELL Partnership. This report describes how Oregon passed and implemented new legislation to identify and support districts who may not be effectively meeting the needs of their English learner students.

Partnership researchers Dr. Karen Thompson and Dr. Ilana Umansky both served on the state ELL Advisory Committee, which drafted the criteria for identifying districts and a framework to guide the technical assistance process. The criteria for identifying districts include multiple metrics using the Ever EL category, which includes both current and former English learners. For example, districts’ Ever EL graduation rates and Ever EL postsecondary enrollment rates are both factors considered in the identification process.

Understanding outcomes for the full group of students who entered school as ELs has been a central goal of our partnership, and the implementation of this legislation marks a milestone in the longstanding effort to improve accountability systems for English learners.

A recent webinar about including Ever English learner students in accountability and continuous improvement featured our partnership’s work in Oregon. Dr. Karen Thompson described how Oregon’s data system now includes a flag for both current and former English learners, enabling the state to report outcomes for both groups. Drawing on information shared in a recent IES blog post, Dr. Thompson showed how conventional reporting of graduation rates for EL and non-EL students masks information about graduation rates for former EL students, who are graduating at rates higher that students never classified as ELs. Dr. Michael Kieffer from New York University shared findings from a recent report about EL outcomes in New York City, indicating that, as in Oregon, graduation rates for the full Ever EL group are much higher than graduation rates for current ELs alone. Presenters discussed strategies for using longitudinal data about Ever ELs in state and district accountability and reporting systems. A recording of the webinar is available below.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) published a blog post authored by our partnership about how Oregon is using the Ever EL category to more accurately capture outcomes for the full group of students who started school classified as English learners. As we explain in the IES blog post, one major reason why the Ever EL category is useful is that at higher grade levels, former ELs far outnumber current ELs. Reporting outcomes for Ever ELs allows us to understand how well schools and districts are serving both groups of students.

In our post, we go into more detail about how analyzing outcomes only for current ELs provides incomplete information. Typically, graduation rates are reported only for current ELs, with former ELs included in the “non-EL” group (as illustrated by the panel on the bottom left in the figure below). However, this reporting scheme provides no information about how schools are serving the much larger group of former ELs. In fact, former ELs graduate at rates slightly higher than students never classified as ELs (comparing the red and yellow bars in the top panel of the figure below). It is certainly concerning that only about half of current ELs graduate from Oregon high schools within four years. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that the full group of current and former ELs–in other words, the Ever EL group–is graduating at rates much closer to their peers never classified as ELs (comparing the red and green bars in the bottom right panel below). This information combats deficit narratives about EL students and about how effectively schools are serving this group of students. While there is still much room for improvement in how education agencies meet the needs of current and former EL students, having complete data about outcomes for both groups, by using the Ever EL category, can facilitate better decision making.

On March 16, 2016, Dr. Martha Martinez from ODE and Dr. Karen Thompson from OSU served as panelists on webinar hosted by the National Center for Research on Policy and Practice to present findings from their study of IES-funded Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships.

Drawing on surveys and interviews of 106 individuals from 27 different partnerships, this report found overwhelming enthusiasm among both researchers and practitioners for collaborating in partnerships, with 100% of survey respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing that they would participate in a partnership again.

Alongside Dr. Martinez and Dr. Thompson, leaders a different partnership between SRI and Clark County Public Schools in Las Vegas, Nevada, reflected on the successes and challenges of their collaborations.

Dr. Martha Martinez from ODE and Dr. Karen Thompson from OSU presented on a panel about reacher-practitioner partnerships at the IES Principal Investigator meeting in Washington D.C. on December 16, 2016. Dr. Martinez and Dr. Thompson discussed the ODE/OSU ELL partnership’s ways of working together, including structures they have developed to support collaboration. They also discussed the evolution of the partnership’s research questions, demonstrating how the creation of a flag to identify students ever classified as English learners (Ever ELs) has enabled them to pursue a variety of additional questions, including analyzing graduation rates and special education disproportionality for Ever ELs.

As part of their presentation, Dr. Martinez and Dr. Thompson shared the figure below, created by partnership member Dr. Ilana Umansky. In this figure, white circles represent students currently classified as English learners while orange circles represent students formerly classified as ELs who have attained English proficiency and exited EL services. At early grade levels, most students in the Ever EL group are currently classified as ELs. However, because most students who enter school as ELs do attain English proficiency, at higher grade levels most students in the Ever EL group are former ELs. Because state and district data systems typically have not flagged former ELs after the short-term monitoring period required under federal law, reporting systems have not been capturing information about outcomes for this large group of students. A key focus of the ODE/OSU ELL partnership has been making changes to state reporting systems in order to provide information about outcomes for the full group of students who enter school as ELs.

Materials for the session can be downloaded here.

We are pleased to announce the release of a policy brief examining English learner students with disabilities in Oregon. Both practitioners and policymakers have raised concerns about this group of students, including whether ELs are over-represented in special education and how best to determine when ELs with disabilities have become proficient in English and no longer need EL services. In this brief we present results of a variety of analyses that compare likelihood of special education identification for English learners and other students.


For one of the three main analyses in the brief, we examine special education enrollment rates for Oregon students in 2013-14. As the lefthand panel of the graph above shows, nearly 40% of students classified as ELs in the middle school grades were in special education. This far exceeds the special education enrollment rate of approximately 15% for students never classified as ELs at this grade level (the Never EL group, shown in the righthand panel of the graph). However, as the middle and righthand panels of the graph illustrates, when we compare special education enrollment rates for all students ever classified as English learners (the Ever EL group) to rates for students never classified as ELs (the Never EL group), the rates are quite similar. As explained in more detail in the full brief, ELs with disabilities are much less likely to meet the criteria necessary to become considered proficient in English and exit EL services. Therefore, large proportions of students in middle and high school who remain classified as English learners qualify for special education. We discuss a variety of implications of our findings, including a need for more guidance on how to effectively determine when ELs with disabilities should exit EL services.

In a webinar hosted by the American Youth Policy Forum, Dr. Karen Thompson (Oregon State University) & Dr. Martha Martinez (Oregon Department of Education) shared work from the ODE/OSU ELL Partnership, and other initiatives the State is undertaking to improve outcomes for English learners in Oregon. The webinar focused on supporting positive outcomes for English learners and building professional capacity for teachers, with other presentations from the Internationals Network for Public Schools and Sanger Unified School District.

Additional webinar materials are available here.