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SBE Announces First Ever English Language Acquisition Award

Release Date: 

March 19, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington State Board of Education (SBE) today announced 42 recipient schools of the first ever English Language Acquisition Award, representing 26 districts from across the state.

In a world that is more mobile than ever, it is no surprise that Washington classrooms increasingly include students who speak a wide range of languages. English Language Learner (ELL) students are the fastest growing subgroup in our schools today. According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) K12 Report Card, the number of ELL students increased 30 percent between May 2005 and May 2013. In school year 2012-13, 187 different languages were spoken by Washington students.

The board created the language acquisition award at the March 2014 board meeting to recognize schools whose ELL students are making the greatest progress toward the goal of becoming proficient in English, which is a stepping stone to career and college-readiness.

"Language acquisition is an indicator of school success and deserves to be acknowledged,” explained Board Chair Dr. Kristina Mayer. "We want to shine the light on what is working so it can be replicated across the state. The board will work with OSPI and other partners to support award-winning schools in sharing their strategies and best practices.”

These schools not only deliver high quality instruction to all of their students, they also provide instructional services to support their ELL students, preparing them to transition out of language programs and achieve academic success.

"Where you grow up, what language you speak, how much money you have or what school you attend should not determine your opportunity to learn,” said Washington’s Teacher of the Year Katie Brown (an English Language Learner Specialist). "All children deserve to have high expectations. All children deserve to be prepared for college, work, and life. Thank you to the teachers, schools, and districts who are finding innovative ways to engage and support our English Language Learners on their path to English proficiency. They can and will reach whatever bar we set for them.”

"Given the increasing number of English Language Learners entering our schools, it is important to recognize the great work staff are doing in assisting our students toward English language acquisition,” said Dr. Gil Mendoza, Assistant Superintendent, Special Programs and Federal Accountability at OSPI. "Foundational skills in the English language are essential to achieving academic success. The efforts of the award-winning schools have gone unheralded for years, yet thousands of students from this important group have gone on to be motivated and succeed in school due to their and others' untiring efforts.”

"Not only do the educators in these schools have to teach children literacy, numeracy, and all the other subjects like every other school, but they face the added challenge of teaching hundreds of children how to speak and become academically proficient in English,” explained Saundra Hill, Superintendent of Pasco School District. "This is an appropriate and well-deserved recognition for all of the schools on this list. This award is a tribute to the knowledge and teaching skills of these dedicated educators who work in these schools.”

Award-Winning Schools

Award Criteria
ELL students were assessed on the Washington English Language Proficiency Assessment (WELPA) in nearly 1,700 schools across the state. The award recognizes approximately the top five percent of elementary, middle, and high schools (who have assessed 20 or more students) based on the school’s median point gain on the 2012-13 WELPA. Award-winning schools must also have met 2012-13 Annual Measurable Achievement Objective (AMAO) 1 and AMAO 2 federal accountability targets. There are two award categories based on the number of students who took the WELPA, small programs (20 to 99 students) and large programs (100 plus students).

SBE is recognizing 42 schools from 26 districts across the state. The distribution of schools by grade band and by program size is shown in the table below.


Contact: Sarah Lane, SBE Communications Manager, (360) 725-6501

About the State Board of Education: The State Board of Education provides advocacy and strategic oversight of public education. The board is comprised of 16 members: five are elected by school board directors, seven are appointed by the Governor, two serve as student representatives, and one serves as a private school representative. The Superintendent of Public Instruction is also a member.

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Media Contact: 

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