English-Language Learners

Using Data to Help ELLs Succeed Requires Partnerships, Persistence, Report Argues

By Corey Mitchell — January 12, 2018 2 min read
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Illinois’ use of English-language-learner data as an “emerging bright spot” for states looking to better serve and understand the growing, but often misunderstood, student population, according to a report from a Washington-based think tank.

In the new report, New America examines how the state’s effort to use longitudinal data could serve as a model for other states seeking guidance on how to accurately evaluate the academic growth and needs of their English-language learners. New America also praises Illinois’ partnership with the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago-based advocacy group that advises state on English-learner issues.

While touting the work already underway, the think tank encourages educators in Illinois—which is home to the nation’s fifth-largest ELL population—to push further and use data to explore how factors such as poverty, homelessness, and student mobility affect the academic performance of English-learners.

The report, Rethinking English Learner Data: Illinois’ Plans Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, is the latest in a series of studies from New America that aims to bring clarity to the complicated process of understanding and using data about English-language learners.

The think tank released two reports in August, including one that established a five-point framework to help policymakers and educators understand how ELLs reach English proficiency and what factors guide that development.

The other study explored Oregon’s efforts to use data to connect with families, replicate successful programs, and ensure more ELLs have access to early learning programs.

The series of reports offers guidance for educators and advocates in search of new ways to use ELL data to drive student success.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states must provide a clearer picture to the public about how English-learners are doing in schools, including keeping a closer eye on their English-proficiency progress and academic achievement.

Assessing how well states are doing the job is no easy task. In September, the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy assembled a brief that highlights 33 questions educators and advocates should ask to evaluate state ESSA plans to determine if they meet the law’s requirements for English-language-learner students.

Here’s a look at the New America report.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.