Effects of the Implementation of Proposition 227 on the Education of English Learners, K-12
Submitted to the California Department of Education
by American Institutes for Research and WestEd
Findings from a Five-Year Evaluation
In 2000, the California Department of Education contracted with the American Institutes for Research and WestEd to conduct a five-year evaluation of the effects of Proposition 227 on the education of English learners (ELs). Student achievement analyses, phone interviews, case study site visits, and written surveys were used to examine such questions as how the proposition was implemented, which EL services are most and least effective, and what unintended consequences resulted from Proposition 227 implementation.
Important findings from the achievement analysis include the following:
- Since the passage of Proposition 227, students across all language classifications in all grades have experienced performance gains on the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program. However, since Proposition 227 was implemented alongside other reform efforts in a climate of increased accountability, it is difficult to attribute gains solely to these provisions.
- While there has been a slight decrease in the performance gap between EL and “English Only” students, it has remained virtually constant in most subject areas for most grades. When former ELs, Reclassified to Fluent English Proficient students, are included in the cohort of ELs, this pattern in the performance gap is very similar. This is especially noteworthy given the substantial increase in the percentage of English learners participating in statewide assessments since the passage of Proposition 227.
- Regarding differences in performance by model of instruction, across all analyses little to no evidence of differences was found. Although the most advanced analyses performed, given current state data limitations, show a slight student achievement advantage to immersion over a bilingual approach, more refined analyses enabled through the use of student-linked data from Los Angeles Unified School District indicate that the contribution to EL performance of an additional year in a bilingual program is not statistically different from an additional year in an immersion program.
Because model of instruction does not appear to be a clear determinant of EL success, we explored the premise that the best source for understanding what does lead to high-level academic performance for ELs would be schools and districts that appear to be achieving this result. We developed a model for identifying such sites and interviewed administrators from 66 schools and 5 districts that are among the highest performers statewide. Our findings suggested no single path to academic success among ELs. However, commonly cited key factors included: (1) staff capacity to address EL needs, (2) a school-wide focus on English Language Development and standards-based instruction, (3) shared priorities and expectations in regard to educating ELs, and (4) systematic assessments providing ongoing data to guide EL policy and instruction.
In light of these findings, recommendations from this study include 11 recommendations directed primarily to state and local educational leaders and policymakers.