English Language Learners (ELL)
Brownsville Independent School District
Brownsville ISD (BISD) serves a student population (total = 49,080) that is 0.2% African American, 98% Hispanic, 2% White, 0.1% Native American, 0.3% Asian/Pacific Islander, 96% economically disadvantaged, 34% limited English proficient (LEP), and 66% at risk.
Since 2005–06, the percentage of BISD elementary English language learners (ELL) reaching the Advanced High level of proficiency on the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) increased at all grade levels. The percentage of BISD elementary ELLs passing reading and mathematics TAKS one year after exiting LEP status was consistently higher than state averages for similar students. The percentage of BISD ELL students still participating in LEP programs in Grade 5 passing reading and mathematics TAKS was also higher than state and peer district comparison group averages for similar students (see Supporting Evidence for more information).
In this summary, find out how the district:
- Garnered Board and staff support and buy-in to prioritize ELL student needs
- Developed guidelines and extensive resources to support model implementation with fidelity
- Includes bilingual/ESL staff in major district planning and decisionmaking
- Promotes implementation of the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) districtwide
- Provides ongoing monitoring and campus-specific support to improve outcomes for ELLs
Strategies that are aligned with research-based best practices in serving ELLs include (see Research Base for more information):
- Establishing shared priorities and a districtwide focus on ELLs
- Supporting consistency of implementation through leadership support/commitment to program goals
- Offering ELL programs based on use of primary language to develop literacy and content knowledge
- Supporting highly qualified teachers with appropriate training and understanding of program and classroom strategies to ensure effective instruction
- Conducting continual monitoring of ELL student performance
- The district has been implementing an early-exit transitional model for bilingual education at the elementary level since 1989 for students identified as limited English proficient (LEP).1 According to information provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on bilingual/ESL program models, the early-exit transitional model is one of the most commonly used in Texas PreK−5. Model guidelines require that transitions to English-only instruction occur not earlier than two years and not later than five years after the student enrolls in school.
- The early-exit transitional model provides native language instruction in the early grades to build literacy skills and content knowledge with a gradual shift to instruction in English as student proficiency levels increase. For example, in BISD, general guidelines for language of instruction for PreK ELLs recommend that (commensurate with proficiency level) 80% of instruction is in Spanish, with 20% in English. In kindergarten, 75% of instruction is in Spanish, and 25% is in English. First grade is 70/30 Spanish to English, and, in second grade, Spanish to English instruction is 60/40. By fifth grade, 20% of instruction is in Spanish, and 80% is in English. The district also provides recommended grade-level percentages based on proficiency level. Oral language development and transitional support through sheltered English instruction are also key features of the model. The goal is to help ELL students meet the exit criteria2 from the bilingual program by the end of elementary school.
- BISD Bilingual/ESL Department professional staff includes a director, two specialists, an ESL counselor, and six lead bilingual/ESL teachers who are assigned to clusters of feeder patterns of schools.
Source: Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS)
Prioritizing ELL student needs and supporting program fidelity
- To support bilingual/ESL program administration, in 2005−06, BISD staff developed a set of administrative guidelines for implementation of the early-exit transitional bilingual instructional model for elementary schools in the district. The guidelines were designed to support implementation fidelity of the program model across the district and included a mission statement, goals, objectives, model description, and program features. The guidelines were approved by BISD’s Board of Trustees in November 2005. Staff reported that having a mandate from the board approving the model increased the priority and visibility for ELL programming at the leadership level. To view the guidelines, see http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/2010-11%20LPAC/Bilingual%20Module%202%20color.pdf.
- To support standardized program implementation, the Bilingual/ESL Department developed and provided access to all administrative documents and a comprehensive set of resources for ELL program administration available through the department website (see http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/). Resources (described below) were updated annually to reflect changes in state and local policy or new textbook adoptions.
- The department also developed and posted an annual, Board-approved bilingual/ESL instructional support plan that provided detailed information on ongoing and planned districtwide and campus-specific initiatives for bilingual/ESL education with articulated progress indicators. For example, the document detailed available professional development and related training objectives. The plan also detailed available resources, pilot programs, and other activities to improve ELL education. The document was incorporated into the district’s improvement plan as well as campus improvement plans and was used as the basis for monitoring implementation of bilingual/ESL initiatives districtwide. (See the Bilingual Plan link at http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/ for the 2010–11 updated plan.)
- In addition, the department provided information, data, and factsheets about the bilingual/ESL program for various district-level meetings, including those of area superintendents and curriculum and instruction staff. Staff reported that the department’s communication strategies helped to garner support for department goals and initiatives and to disseminate information to campus principals. Staff also worked directly with campus principals and other administrators to address campus-specific ELL needs.
- The Bilingual/ESL Department was directly and collaboratively involved in the planning and implementation of all major district curriculum initiatives, including the implementation of the district’s Reading First initiative and adoption of the CSCOPE mathematics and science curriculum. Department staff was involved in decision-making processes, vetting choices for integration with bilingual/ESL programming and developing bilingual/ESL resources and training for campus administrators and teachers linked to these initiatives.
Program implementation resources
- Based on stakeholder and administrator feedback after adoption of the administrative guidelines, the Bilingual/ESL Department developed district-specific documents and detailed resources to guide campus-level implementation of the early-exit transitional model (see http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/). These documents provided specific definitions and regulatory guidelines as well as detailed explanations of what bilingual/ESL instruction should look like at each grade level and in each subject area. This included an explanation of the progression of the percentage of instruction that should be provided in students’ primary language (Spanish) or in English, based on student proficiency level on TELPAS. Other specific resources included the following (see Bilingual Model 2009–2010 at http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/html/Program_Content.html):
- recommended daily grade-level time allocations for subject area instruction in primary/secondary language;
- grade-level curricular supports and resources aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the CSCOPE curriculum, and state-adopted materials;
- subject-specific modifications for ELLs; and
- recommended grade-level sample schedules.
- The department website also included:
- ELL assessment resources, including TAKS, TAKS Linguistically Accommodated Testing (LAT), and TELPAS tutorials, study guides, forms, and procedural guidelines (see http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/html/Assessment.html);
- teacher tools in English and Spanish reading, mathematics, and science, including TEKS/TAKS connections, Lectura en Español Estrategias con Recursos Materiales, Apoyo y Sugerencias (LEER MAS) extensions, useful websites, Spanish instructional resources, and activities for ESL students (see http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/html/Resources.html); and
- ELL tutorial program resources including guidelines, lesson plans, and TAKS-taking strategies (see http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/html/Tutorials.html).
- The district developed a data-based process for campus requests for support in serving ELLs. To provide focus for campus visits by district bilingual/ESL staff and resource requests, a menu-based form allowed campus staff to specify requests to the district for technical assistance, professional development, and resources and helped campuses identify need for support based on a variety of assessment data.
- In addition, the district offered a mini-grant program supported with Title III and state bilingual funding through which campuses could make requests to support ELL programs. Requests had to be based on a needs assessment and aligned with a specific intervention plan. Grant expenditures were typically for resources, such as science kits, classroom libraries, technology, and software, or additional professional development.
English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) implementation
- The district developed a four-module foundational training series for the ELPS based on TEA training provided by the district’s regional education service center and in 2006–07 began delivery to district and campus administrators and staff.
- Principals were subsequently required to ensure that all teachers on their campuses received ELPS training, on modules 1 and 2 in the first year (Phase I, 2007–08), and modules 3 and 4 the following year (Phase II, 2008–09). Training could be provided through the district’s professional development offerings or redelivery from trained campus ESL staff. District staff monitored campus compliance through the district’s online professional development system or through review of sign-in sheets or other documents for campus-delivered trainings submitted by principals. (For more information on district ELPS training modules, see 2009 ELPS Modules at http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/html/Program_Content.html.) Ongoing training for new staff was provided by the district.
- To provide advanced training in ELPS implementation, the district sent department trainers to ELPS Academies offered by TEA in 2009–10. The Academies provided specific practice for participants in writing language objectives in each of the four core content areas for the language development domains (speaking, reading, writing, listening) and strategies for implementing in the classroom. District trainers then redelivered this advanced ELPS training to core-area content teachers locally.
- In 2010–11, the district offered ELPS TELPAS trainings as well.
- ELPS-related training was also integrated into other district professional development offerings. For example, a recent districtwide Reading/ELA Institute included four sessions on ELL instructional strategies.
- To monitor ELPS implementation, the district developed a monitoring form that teachers of ELLs were required to complete in the fall and then again in December or January indicating progress on specific reading and writing objectives for individual students. The forms were required for students who had remained at early proficiency levels (beginner, intermediate) for two or more years or for students who had been identified as LEP for five or more years.
- The district also tracked ELPS implementation through peer review campus visits using Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS) checklists with probes that included ongoing monitoring of exited LEP students for the first and second year after exit (M1s and M2s).3 Implementation was also tracked by district staff working with campuses to implement campus support plans for ELLs.
Ongoing assessment and monitoring
- The district conducted extensive analysis of TAKS, TAKS LAT, and TELPAS assessment data and data reported through PBMAS for bilingual/ESL student outcomes at the district, cluster, and campus level to provide customized reports for district and campus staff. The district also placed specific emphasis on oral language proficiency and provided campus reports on data from the Stanford English Language Proficiency (SELP) test and the Stanford Spanish Language Proficiency (SSLP) test correlated with TELPAS results. In addition, the district tracked and provided data to campuses on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) performance requirements for ELLs. These requirements, or annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAO), address English language proficiency and the progress ELLs are making toward meeting state academic standards.
- BISD bilingual/ESL staff provided customized and detailed analyses of disaggregated data for campuses at the teacher and student level. To monitor for AYP compliance, the district reported specifically on students remaining at the beginning or intermediate English proficiency levels for more than two years.
- The district developed a Special Programs folder that provided, in one place, detailed documentation on individual ELL students and campus interventions. Staff reported that this strategy assisted in bilingual/ESL program coordination. The folders were kept at the campus level and were part of students’ permanent record files.
- The district’s online professional development system allowed department staff to review district and campus teacher participation to monitor how many teachers had received ELL trainings at the campus level and design targeted campus interventions.
- ELPS and additional training provided by the Bilingual/ESL Department for all elementary teachers and administrators
- Training provided by the Bilingual/ESL Department for administrators and LPAC committee members
Resources, Cost Components, and Sources of Funding:
- This practice was implemented using state bilingual and Title III funds.
- Staff reported that due to the size of the district, the administrative guidelines were developed to send a clear message about the importance of fidelity of implementation of the bilingual program and to provide specific implementation guidance to principals, teachers, and bilingual specialists. The board-approved guidelines assisted in garnering buy-in from district and campus leaders and sent a clear message about district priorities in improving support for ELLs.
Established Best PracticeOverview of Evidence:
The percentage of BISD elementary ELLs reaching the Advanced High proficiency level on the English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) increased since 2005–06 at every grade level as follows: in Kindergarten from 4% to 11% in 2009–10; Grade 1 from 8% to 19% in 2009–10; Grade 2 from 15% to 30% in 2009–10; Grade 3 from 35% to 43% in 2009–10; Grade 4 from 34% to 40% in 2009–10; and Grade 5 from 48% to 60% in 2009–10. Chart 1 shows trend data indicating the increase in the percentages of BISD elementary ELLs reaching the TELPAS Advanced High proficiency level from 2005–06 to 2009–10.
The percentage of BISD elementary ELL students in Grades 3–5 passing reading and mathematics TAKS one year after exiting LEP status (first year of monitoring as Student Exit LEP Monitored or M1) was consistently higher than state averages for similar students,4
and all comparisons were statistically significant (p
<.05). In 2008–09, the percentage of BISD ELL elementary M1 students passing TAKS reading one year after exiting LEP status was 94%, compared to the state average of 92%. In 2008–09, the percentage of BISD ELL elementary M1 students passing mathematics TAKS was 96%, compared to the state average of 93%. Chart 2 shows trend data comparing the percentage of BISD elementary ELL students (M1s) passing reading and mathematics TAKS one year after exiting LEP programs to state averages for similar students from 2005–06 to 2008–09.
The percentage of BISD elementary ELL students still participating in LEP programs in Grade 5 passing reading TAKS was also consistently higher than state averages as well as averages for similar students from a peer district comparison group that included two districts.5
All comparisons were statistically significant (p
<.05), except for 2006–07 and 2007–08 for the peer district comparison group. In 2008–09, the percentage of BISD Grade 5 LEP students passing reading TAKS was 79%, compared to the state average for similar students of 59% and the peer district average of 71%. The percentage of BISD Grade 5 LEP students passing mathematics TAKS was also consistently higher than state and peer district averages, and all comparisons were statistically significant p
<.05) except for 2006–07 for the peer district comparison group. In 2008–09, the percentage of BISD Grade 5 LEP students passing mathematics TAKS was 86%, compared to the state average of 69% and the peer district average of 78%. Chart 3 shows trend data comparing the percentage of BISD Grade 5 LEP students passing reading and mathematics TAKS to state and peer district averages for similar students from 2005–06 to 2008–09.Source: Texas Assessment Management System
Source: Texas Assessment Management System
Note: Weighted averages reflect first administration test participation only in the grade levels of the practice. Averages do not reflect data from Grade 6 for those ELLs exiting LEP programs after Grade 5.
Source: Texas Assessment Management SystemNote: Weighted averages reflect first administration test participationonly in the grade levels of the practice.
- Parrish, T. B., Perez, M., Merickel, A., & Linquanti, R. (2006). Effects of the implementation of Proposition 227 on the education of English learners, K-12: Findings from a five-year evaluation. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research and WestEd. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED491617.pdf
- Short, D., & Fitzsimmons, S. (2007). Double the work: Challenges and solutions to acquiring language and academic literacy for adolescent English language learners. (A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York.) Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.all4ed.org/files/DoubleWork.pdf
- Texas Education Agency (2006). The Institute for Second Language Achievement, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Best practices for English language learners. Austin, TX: Author. Retrieved from http://ell.tamucc.edu/files/BestPracticesforELL.pdf
Brownsville Independent School District
1900 Price Rd.
Brownsville, TX 78521
1 Note: Texas Education Code (TEC)§29.052 defines a “Student of limited English proficiency (LEP) as a student whose primary language is other than English and whose English language skills are such that the student has difficulty performing ordinary class work in English.” TEC further requires that districts with an enrollment of 20 or more students of limited English proficiency in any language classification in the same grade level offer a bilingual education or special language program as follows: (1) bilingual education in kindergarten through the elementary grades; (2) bilingual education, instruction in English as a second language, or other transitional language instruction approved by the agency in post-elementary grades through Grade 8; and (3) instruction in English as a second language in Grades 9 through 12. The terms “English language learner” (ELL) and bilingual/ESL student are used in this summary interchangeably to refer to students participating in elementary LEP programs. State data for ELLs is reported using the term LEP.2For details, see http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=4098&menu_id=720.3Coded as F for first-year monitors and S for second-year monitors in PEIMS.4Data for matched peer districts were not available for all grades levels included in this analysis of M1 performance, so peer district comparisons were not conducted.
5The peer district comparison group included two districts matched on urbanicity and a +/- 10% range on demographics.