Alicia Milstead leads a lesson in her English Learner class at Tupelo High School. Taking standardized tests can pose a particular challenge for students who are still learning English.

The Mississippi Department of Education was awarded a nearly $2.4 million grant to lead a multi-state effort to better measure the progress of English learner students.

MDE received $2,376,010 to partner with six states for the four-year project that will “develop and improve ways to measure the progress of English Learner (EL) students.”

The other six states include Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin.

A kickoff meeting between the participating states is projected for early December and results of the collaboration will be shared with researchers and teachers across America after it wraps up in September 2023.

“We are proud to lead this national effort that will improve the way states measure the academic progress of students who are learning to read, write and speak English,” Dr. Carey Wright, the state superintendent of education, said. “The population of English learners is growing in Mississippi and the nation, and this project will support states in their work to advance student learning.”

The increasing number of English learners in Mississippi schools is evidenced by an increased number of EL students taking the annual English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT.)

During the 2014-15 school year, 9,769 students from kindergarten through 12th grade were tested. That number increased to 12,106 four years later during the 2018-19 school year.

Only 13% of the 11,748 students who took the ELPT in 2018 met the criteria to exit the EL program, which means they learned enough English to no longer need additional support. That number grew 4 percent to 17% of EL students tested in spring 2019.

The MDE will provide data sets and business rules for the research, but at a lower level, schools may participate in an English Learner Program Implementation Survey and some principals may participate in cognitive lab-type analysis based on the survey questions, according to MDE state assessment director Jackie Sampsell, Ed.D.

The research will help states to better measure English learner progress towards English language proficiency and understand the relationship between that progress and EL program implementation.

Research results will be shared with other states and will “inform the field’s understanding of effective measures of growth towards English language proficiency” and offer resources for schools and teachers to customize and use.

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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