- Many English learners in the Chicago Public Schools not only catch up with their non-EL peers by 8th grade, but some academically pass them, according to new research from the University of Chicago's Consortium on School Research. The study indicates that most ELs who started kindergarten in CPS — and reach proficiency by 8th grade — match or exceed their peers academically.
- The study also shows that CPS 8th graders who started their education with the district had higher attendance, math scores and core course grades than their peers. They also had similar reading scores and freshmen "on-track" rates.
- The research also found that between 3rd and 8th grade, the percentage of CPS ELs meeting or exceeding national averages increased by 33% in reading and 18% in math, while 9th graders had an on-track rate of more than 90%. Their attendance rates exceeded district averages and their grade point averages were similar to their non-EL peers.
Chicago’s recipe for EL success includes providing an early intervention platform that features professional development, tutoring and its new Curriculum Equity Initiative, which focuses on ensuring that teachers have standards-aligned materials that are "free from bias; fair across race, religion, ethnicity and gender, and culturally relevant."
The district also strengthened bilingual education by increasing funding to expand its dual-language program, increasing the number of bilingual/ESL-endorsed teachers by 1,000 since 2015, and strengthening its bilingual teacher pipeline through its teacher residency program.
The district also actively engages parents and other stakeholders. At CPS, 80% of ELs developed English proficiency by 8th grade, much higher than the national average of fewer than 9%, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
CPS, however, has been criticized for not doing enough to help ELs. A 2017 article suggested that a review of district records showed numerous state law violations related to bilingual programs and a shortage of trained teachers and bilingual learning supplies and lack of bilingual parent committees.
Joanna Duggan and Teddi Predaris, both English learner specialists, say districts should implement EL master plans that can be tailored for regional context, are comprehensive and can be easily accessed by stakeholders. The plan should address the identification process, research-based program models and assessments. They also say districts need adequate staff and resources and that community engagement and professional development for teachers are critical.