Panel: Helping State and Local Governments Develop Policies for Language Minority Students
(Population and Migration Issues)

Friday, November 7, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Enchantment Ballroom A (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Maria Perez, University of Washington
Panel Chairs:  Mark Long, University of Washington
Discussants:  Dylan Conger, George Washington University


Supporting Immigrant Families' Access to Prekindergarten
Julia Gelatt1, Gina Adams2 and Sandra Huerta2, (1)Urban Institute, (2)The Urban Institute



The Effects of Changing Test-Based Criteria for Reclassifying English Learners: A Difference-in-Regression-Discontinuities Approach
Joseph Robinson-Cimpian, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Karen Thompson, Oregon State University


The population of language minorities in the United States has more than doubled over the past three decades. The growing population of language minority students enrolled in public schools has created an urgent need for state and local governments to understand what school policies are most effective to meet the educational needs of these students. This panel collects a number of papers that attempt to provide some of this information. The papers look at how changes to education policies at the PK-12 level affect language minority student outcomes such as prekindergarten enrollment, acquisition of English proficiency, and high school graduation rates. Each paper presents useful findings for education policymakers to consider when creating programs for language minority students. Gelatt, Adams, and Huerta bring attention to the enrollment of children of immigrants and English Learners (ELs) in early childhood education. These children have had disproportionately low rates of enrollment in these programs including state prekindergarten programs. The authors conduct a number of phone interviews with key decision-makers for early childhood education outreach programs in order to identify effective strategies for helping immigrant families overcome barriers to accessing early childhood education. The findings suggest a few strategies that could be used by local and state governments who hope to increase the inclusion of children of immigrants in their public prekindergarten programs. Kennedy and Perez look at how the elimination of bilingual education in California, specialized programs for ELs that provides all of the instruction in a studentís native language, had an effect on ELsí time to reach English proficiency (measured through their time to being reclassified as Fluent English Proficient (RFEP)). The authors look at how a number of effects of the policy change could have had an effect on the time to reclassification: changes in the language of instruction, changes in classroom composition, and changes to the motivation for reclassification. Findings from this study could provide some evidence for states that are considering eliminating bilingual education programs. Robinson-Cimpian and Thompson focus on how changes to test-based criteria for reclassifying English learners has an effect on achievement on English language arts (ELA) standardized test and high school graduation. In order to reach RFEP status, EL students must achieve certain test-based thresholds set by the state or local policymakers. The study looks at how movements of these thresholds to become more rigorous had an effect on language minority student educational trajectories. The authorsí results provide information for States wondering how to set these thresholds in order to help EL students smoothly transition to RFEP status. All three of these papers enlighten issues of education policies directly aimed at language minority students. As the population of language minority students continues to grow at an incredible rate, a panel seeking to provide information on policy issues related to these students can be incredibly important.
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