- A new study published today in the journal Educational Researcher counters the notion that English learners perform poorly and aren't being adequately served by schools.
- According to the "Hidden Progress of Multilingual Students on NAEP," reading and math achievement gaps on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for 4th and 8th grade multilingual students and their English-speaking peers narrowed significantly between 2003 and 2015. In 4th grade, the reading gap progress was 24% and math was 37%, while 8th graders narrowed the reading gap by 27% and math by 39%.
- Overall, the 12-year period saw the achievement gap for multilingual students close by a third to a half of a grade level, with the study's authors noting that pre-existing metrics used to measure achievement for English learners also provided an inaccurate picture for educators and policymakers on the actual progress made.
The prevailing theme for several years has been that schools and districts aren't doing enough to serve English learners, but this research shows that those concerns may be exaggerated. That's not to say there isn't still work to be done or that administrators can sit back just yet. It does, however, offer support for efforts already taken and underway.
Interestingly, the researchers credit changes that took place under No Child Left Behind — the oft-maligned Bush-era iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that preceded the Every Student Succeeds Act — for laying the groundwork for these improvements.
“Despite the downsides of No Child Left Behind, the substantial recent progress of multilingual students demonstrated in our research suggests that the bundle of various policies and practices at the federal, state, district and school levels may have together been more beneficial than harmful,” New York University Associate Professor Michael J. Kieffer, who co-authored the study with Karen D. Thompson, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, said in a press release. “As schools begin to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, evaluating new changes in policies and practices for multilingual students will be essential.”