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September 5, 2013
Results for English Learners Leave Much to be Desired
State prepares for major changes to instruction, standards, and assessment for English Learners
(Salem, Ore.) – Today, Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton announced the release of the Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAO) report for the 2012-13 school year. This report describes the progress that school districts are making in teaching English to Oregon’s 56,800 English Learners (EL) as measured against federal targets. This report is required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and was largely un-impacted by Oregon’s federal flexibility waiver. This year’s report shows that fewer students made the expected gains in language acquisition, language proficiency, and program exits than last year. As federal targets continue to increase, the declines in the percent of students meeting targets this year result in a widening gap between federal goals and student outcomes.
“Our education system is in a time of change, but unfortunately, that change isn’t happening fast enough for our English Learners,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “While I don’t believe that these federal targets are an ideal measure of language acquisition and student learning, the results are clear. We need to move forward aggressively with our reform efforts to ensure we are providing our English Learners with the instruction, supports, and opportunities they need to master academic English and graduate ready for college and career. Declines like we saw this year just reaffirm the need for significant changes to how we support, teach, and assess our state’s English Learners.”
The goal of English Language Development (ELD) programs is to help students acquire academic English skills while at the same time providing instruction in the academic content that all students are required to know. Language acquisition and progress toward proficiency are assessed through students’ performance on the state’s English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) which is administered to all English Language Learners in kindergarten through 12th grade each year. Oregon identifies five levels of language proficiency from beginning to advanced, and students are expected to progress annually across the proficiency levels.
Change on the Horizon
Oregon has adopted the new, more rigorous, Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math that are designed to help all students prepare for future success. In addition, Oregon, in partnership with Stanford University, the Council of Chief State School Officers, WestEd, and 10 other states, have been developing new English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards that correspond to the Common Core. These new standards, designed to ensure English Learners receive the same rigorous and engaging instruction as their peers, are scheduled for review and adoption by the State Board of Education this fall. Initial implementation of the new ELP standards is scheduled to begin in the 2014-15 school year, with instructional materials aligned to the new standards required in Oregon classrooms in the fall of 2015. In addition to new standards, Oregon is leading an 11 state consortia which received a $6.3 million federal grant to develop an improved English Language Proficiency Assessment. Known as the ELPA 21, this assessment will test students’ English proficiency based on the newly developed standards.
“I believe that these new standards, the changes to instruction that they will prompt, and the better information provided by the new assessment, will start to turn things around for our English Language Development programs,” said Deputy Superintendent Saxton. “However, we can’t stop there. Helping students develop strong academic English skills is a critical step – but it is only one step. Reaching true educational equity in our state does not simply mean ensuring all kids have access to the same opportunities or the same level of education. Equity is not about access; it’s about outcomes. And our success with our English Learners should not simply be measured by how many students exit our language programs, but by how many of our formerly EL students go on to college and career success. This is the goal. This is what we are aiming for, true equity in student outcomes.”
Education Equity Unit
Beginning this year, the Oregon Department of Education created a new unit to help districts in their efforts around educational equity, closing the academic achievement gap, and providing services and supports to English Learners and students of color. This unit, led by Assistant Superintendent David Bautista, will provide an unprecedented level of support for, and focus on, equity issues around the state.
This past year, Oregon received a federal waiver to certain elements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly No Child Left Behind). This waiver allowed the state to design a new home-grown accountability system that is more based on student learning and growth and less on getting over a specific bar. However, this flexibility did not extend to the requirements for English Learners and the AMAO report remains largely unchanged, except for one piece. As Oregon’s new accountability system no longer uses AYP, districts are now rated on whether their students meet new Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) for AMAO Target 3. One of the main differences between AYP and AMOs is that AMOs do not include a margin of error, which makes meeting the target more challenging than in the past. Oregon has requested federal approval to examine this final AMAO target and make adjustments to align it with our new state accountability system and better reflect district progress in providing instruction to English Learners but that flexibility was not available for this year’s report.
As was the case in the past with AYP, the AMAO targets increase each year according to a set schedule. The three targets track progression in English Language acquisition, the percent of students exiting programs or obtaining proficiency, and whether districts met Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) for their English Learners. The 2012-13 targets and results are provided below.
AMAO Target #1 – Progressing in English language acquisition
For an audio clip of Deputy Superintendent Saxton, go to: http://video.orvsd.org/ode/eng-lang-devel.MP3
For an FAQ on AMAOs, go to: http://www.ode.state.or.us//wma/superintendent/release/amao-faq-12-13.pdf
For the 2012-13 AMAO report and additional details, go to: http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=3408.
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