english language learners

Education Weekly has recently published results of a study of the English Language Learner programs fin all 50 states. According to the publication, Hawai`i’s averages for attaining proficiency and making progress for attaining proficiency are below national averages, but its averages for proficiency in math and reading are above national averages.

Hawai`i has a program for English Language Learners in Hawai`i, called the English as a Second Language Learner Program (ESLL), developed by Hawai`i’s DOE. Hawai`i’s schools participate in an English immersion program, which means that ESLL students are taught in only English. The students attend general content classes taught to all students and also attend ESLL classes. The DOE outlines this program in its manual called “Identification, Assessment, and Programming System for Students in the English for Second Language Learners Program.” This set of guidelines is binding upon all local educational agencies and was designed to address the EEOA and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and it outlines the procedures to be used in identification, programming, and assessment. In the introduction the guidelines state that schools are “encouraged” to (1) “employ teaching personnel trained in the theories and techniques of ESL…education,” and (2) “collect data…for evaluating the effectiveness of the ESLL Program. The guidelines then proceed to list a set of very general guidelines for ways schools can implement their ESLL Programs.

According to the manual, ESLL teachers need only have Hawai`i certification and “training” in English as a Second Language or in Bilingual/Multicultural Education, but do not need to be “certified” in teaching ESLL. In addition, content teachers need only 6 credits that come from a recommended course list, also provided in the guidelines. The recommended course list includes English literature classes that do not relate to English Language Learners. The manual, does not seem to by itself oblige schools to adequately teach ESLL students, because (1) it does not require proper training by teachers, and (2) does not require that schools evaluate the effectiveness of their programs.

It appears that Hawai`i’s DOE does not require compliance with the EEOA. In fact, the Arizona English Language Program that was found to be inadequate in compliance to provide ELL students an equal education, and thus to be in violation of the EEOA, had (1) teacher standards for ELL instruction (2) required teachers to demonstrate competence in ELL instruction, and (3) offered incentives for ELL teachers to obtain training. The Hawai`i programs provide none of the above.

That said, individual schools may still comply with the EEOA. According to the Hawai`i ESLL guidelines, each school is monitored annually for effectiveness of their ESLL programs.

Hawai`i participates in Title III of the NCLB Act, and receives Title III grants from the US DOE. However, the US DOE has found that for the past four years, Hawai`i has not met its “annual measurable achievement objectives” (AMAOs) as required by the Act. The US DOE has compelled Hawai`i to implement an improvement plan. In 2007 the U.S. DOE’s Office of English Language Acquisition conducted a monitoring review of the Hawai`i DOE’s compliance with Title III of the NCLB. The monitoring team found Hawai`i to be in violation of Title III in many aspects, including the following: (1) Hawai`i’s definition of “significant increase” in progress of ESLL students did not include all immigrants within the state, (2) Hawai`i did not adequately monitor its schools’ compliance with Title III, (3) Hawai`i did not annually assess all students categorized as LEP, (4) Hawai`i did not submit an adequate statement of its use of Title III money, (4) Hawai`i did not implement an adequate improvement plan. Hawai`i’s Board of Education has responded by setting up rules to ensure that Hawai`i complies with Title III, and by ensuring that expenditure data and evidence of a sufficient monitoring plan will be available in December, 2008.

According to Hawai`i’s 2007 NCLB Reports, 71.9% of ESLL students are making “progress” in attaining English Language proficiency, and 9.8% of ESLL students are attaining English language proficiency. However, the test scores for content subjects for high school ESLL students pale in comparison to the general population of public school students. For math, only 14.1% of ESLL students, compared to 34.1% of students overall, achieved at or above proficiency. In reading, 31.8% of ESLL students, as compared to 67.8% of students overall, achieved at or above proficiency. In science, only 6% of ESLL students, as opposed to 26.6% of students overall, achieved proficiency. Additionally, 10.6% of ESLL students, as opposed to 5.2% of students overall, drop out of high school. This information indicates that Hawai`i’s ESLL program is not working, and that Hawai`i must modify its plan for EEOA compliance.