The four-year graduation rate for English Language Learners (ELLs), who make up 27% of our student body, is nearing that of non-English Language Learners. This gap is closed in the six-year rate.
Contributing to this narrowing gap are our Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs, which bring together English Language Learners and native English speakers together in a classroom where they learn side by side. Classes are taught in both Spanish and English. Students develop their first language while learning communication and literacy skills in a second language. Research shows that ELL students who receive bilingual instruction have higher long-term achievement outcomes, resulting in higher graduation rates, which we see reflected in our data. In fact, in all areas, ELLs, as a student group, have improved more than any other student group.
In June, our very first class of dual-language immersion graduates walked across the Kohl Center stage and received their diplomas, ready to thrive as bilingual and biliterate young adults. Many also were honored with the Wisconsin Seal of Biliteracy for demonstrating proficiency in two languages and global and sociocultural competency.
“I’d like to be a teacher. It’s just going to create so many more opportunities for me if I’m able to communicate with both children in two different languages and their parents.” – Ashleigh Kujoth
“Being bilingual doesn’t always have to mean knowing two different languages, but also knowing two different cultures.” – Pedro Arturo Flores Falcon
A look back: In 2005, this group of students became the first kindergarten students to learn at Nuestro Mundo Community School, the district’s DLI public charter school.
Because it is critical that students in all attendance areas and students of all backgrounds are able to access bilingual education, since 2005, we’ve expanded our dual-language immersion programs to offer them in 16 schools in the 2017-18 school year.
In addition to DLI, we offer English as a Second Language (ESL) services in our schools and Developmental Bilingual Education (DBE) in several. ESL services provide language support to English Language Learners enrolled in a general education classroom, where classes are conducted in English.
In DBE classrooms, students receive instruction from a bilingual teacher in both English and Spanish or Hmong. Key concepts are taught in one language and reinforced in the other language. DBE classrooms are made up of Spanish-speaking or Hmong-speaking students only.
These programs together have helped our English Language Learners make sustained improvements. In addition to higher graduation rates, reading proficiency for ELLs in grades 3 through 5 has increased by 13 points (compared to a district-average 9 point increase) since the 2012-13 school year. Math proficiency for the same group has increased by 11 points (compared to a district-average 7 point increase). In grades 6 through 8, reading proficiency increased by 6 points (compared to 4) and math proficiency increased by 4 points, matching the district-average increase.