This is a brand new report from the Council for Great City Schools (CGCS). CGCS is an organization that support 75 of the largest school districts across the nation including Boston Public Schools and Miami-Dade Public Schools. This report is a follow-up from their 2013 report. The findings are similar:
- English learners are the fastest-growing populations in our large public schools.
- Most responding districts had more than 10 percent of their ELLs classified as Long-Term ELLs
- More districts are improving their special education eligibility rates of English learners to non-English learners
- 29 district included metrics of English language instruction for all teachers as part of the teacher evaluation
- Districts reported an increase in professional development offerings in SLIFE, Engish learners with Special education needs, high-quality evidenced-based ELL strategies
- Most common languages –92.4 percent of English Learners speak Spanish (87% -3.7 million students), Arabic (1.8%-7,687 students and fastest-growing language), Chinese (1.6% -20,987 student in the member districts), Haitian Creole (1.25% or 18,935 students in the member districts), or Vietnamese (0.89% or 12,294 students in the member districts) and Somali 6,110 students in the member districts.
THE CRITICAL QUESTION IN THE SECTION IN SPECIAL EDUCATION AND ENGLISH LEARNERS
English Learners with Disabilities referral rates dropped to match non-ell referral rates based on the ratio analysis. What does this mean? Are educators referring students more accurately? Are special education processes better? We don’t know and from what I hear there is are still very poor practices still happening including not including native language assessment, requiring teachers to wait before referring English learners for special education, an many more. The impact of this report on this section is critical for CGCS and researchers to explore further why this occurred, how it is being monitored, what is the outcome in those same years of English Learners in those districts, what does the guidance in those districts look like, how are they enforced and most importantly what are teachers doing to ensure they know the language learning laws, special education laws, and ESSA requirements. There are pockets of excellence but I fear that there are just unspoken rules being applied that is now impacting long term outcomes for English learners in general and growing overidentification making special education the service for many. This is especially troublesome as the outcome for students with disability is dismal. As the CGCS results posit continued challenges with underrepresentation and overrepresentation happening through the largest 75 of the largest public school districts.
If you are ready to read this report please note that it will take many conversations with colleagues to try and understand all the statistics but please don’t give up. There is a lot more information here than the short summary I posted.
What are your thoughts?
Claudia is a Full Professor of Education and Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Claudia is a researcher, consultant, and teacher educator committed to addressing the needs of bilingual students who are learning English and have a disability.