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Measuring Long-Term Success of English Language Learners

Release Date: 

August 23, 2013

Last month, the State Board of Education voted to replace the English Language Learner ‘ELL’ subgroup with an ‘Ever ELL’ subgroup in the Revised Achievement Index submitted to the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The board is concerned about drawing conclusions concerning the academic proficiency of students when they are tested in a language they do not yet understand, and favors a new approach to assessing the performance of ELL students and the schools and programs that serve them.

The ‘ELL’ subgroup consists only of students CURRENTLY in Transitional Bilingual Instruction Programs (TBIP). Once a student has met language proficiency standards they are graduated out of the ELL subgroup.

By contrast, an ‘Ever ELL’ subgroup would consist of both CURRENT and FORMER ELL students. This allows the Index to display a true picture of the performance of ELLs, both during their time in a TBIP, as well as after they have exited the program. It provides better accountability for how well the TBIPs prepare students to transition out of the program and achieve both English proficiency and academic competency. We are concerned about the long-term success and career and college readiness of ELL students. An ‘Ever ELL’ approach will adjust the Index to reflect this philosophy.

Washington is the first state to pursue an ‘Ever ELL’ subgroup, so this may require negotiations with ED to implement as part of the revised Achievement Index. Several school districts and committees have written letters in support of SBE’s ‘Ever ELL’ approach.

“an Ever ELL category would provide me with a much better measure of how my ELL students are doing. I need to know not only how they are progressing in the acquisition of basic English, but how well they do after they become proficient in basic English and continue their education in the various content areas.” – Dave Larson, Tukwila School Board Director

“I believe that the Ever ELL cell would constitute an improved, more reasonable and accurate way to hold school systems accountable for these students. It would tell a more complete story about the programs’ efficacy as students move through the grade levels.” – Saundra L. Hill, Pasco School District Superintendent

“The BEAC strongly supports the Accountability Index developed by the Washington State Board of Education that will ensure a fair and clear identification of English learners’ academic performance.” – Elizabeth Padilla Flynn, Bilingual Education Advisory Committee Chair

Our hope is that ED will see the benefit of tracking the long-term sustainability of ELL students’ academic performance.

~ Sarah Lane

Read the letters of support from the:

Media Contact: 

Alissa Muller, SBE Communications Manager, (360) 725-6501