The Need for Differentiated Early Warning in ELL Education

Need for Differentiated Early Warning in ELL Education 10 440x325 300x222The English Language Learner population in the United States is statistically four times as likely to drop out of school than their English-speaking counterparts. Naturally, that group comes under scrutiny when schools try to make plans for the future and determine future graduation rates.

To do this, many schools use early warning indicators derived from previous test scores, formative assessment, and other educational artifacts from a student’s school career. But one new study has found that early warning systems that may work for the general population are greatly inaccurate when trying to measure the likelihood of an ELL dropping out.

The study, undertaken in school districts around Seattle, Washington, found that those districts’ existing early warning systems overestimated the ELL graduation rate by 33.8 percent and underestimated their dropout rate by 5.8 percent. That is quite a difference.

On the student level, these early warnings are used to identify students who need extra supports and greater differentiation in the classroom. But if these systems are woefully underestimating the needs of the ELL population, chances are that students who are in need of extra support are not receiving it. This further perpetuates the disparity in overall graduation and dropout rates among the population.

Instead, the study suggests districts find alternative methods of detecting at-risk ELL students, some of which may be home-grown and designed to work with their specific population rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” solution and making due.

To see the study’s report for yourself, click here.

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