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Groundbreaking Research Shows Majority of CPS English Learners Match or Exceed Academic Progress of Other Students

03 December 2019

According to New Study by the UChicago Consortium on School Research, Most CPS English Learners Match or Exceed Academic Performance of Peers Who Have Never Been Classified as ELs by Eighth Grade; Most ELs Became Proficient in English by Fifth Grade

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

CHICAGO – New groundbreaking research from the UChicago Consortium on School Research shows that students who begin CPS as English Learners (EL) in kindergarten and reach proficiency by eighth grade are matching or exceeding the academic performance of their peers who have never been classified as ELs – a finding that speaks to the strength of bilingual supports and programming throughout the district. A link to the research can be found here:

“This groundbreaking research challenges misconceptions and shows that CPS English Learners are playing a pivotal role in the district’s overall record-breaking academic progress,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “English Learners make up nearly 20 percent of the district’s enrollment and this research is a testament to the phenomenal work of students, teachers, principals and their families at schools across the city. We are thankful to the UChicago Consortium for conducting this truly groundbreaking research that will help inform practice in Chicago and beyond.”

By evaluating student performance from kindergarten through the beginning of high school, the Consortium found that by eighth grade most students who began as English Learners had higher attendance, math test scores and core course grades than their peers who were never classified as English Learners, while achieving similar reading test scores and Freshman OnTrack rates.

Students who have been identified as an English Learner at some point encompass nearly 32 percent of the district’s overall enrollment. According to the report’s findings, nearly four out of every five CPS English Learners (80 percent) developed English proficiency by eighth grade, with the majority of these students reaching proficiency by fifth grade (77 percent).

“The district’s strength lies in its diversity and this research is critical to understanding the big picture of academic progress at CPS,” said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “We welcome the opportunity to celebrate our students’ accomplishments as we strive to build upon this progress, increase investments in bilingual education, and work to ensure every student in every neighborhood has access to a high-quality education.”

Other key findings include:

  • Between third and eighth grade, the percentage of CPS English Learners meeting or exceeding national averages grew 33 percentage points in reading and 18 percentage points in math;
  • Ninth-grade English Learners had a Freshman OnTrack rate of over 90 percent;
  • English Learners’ attendance rates exceeded district averages; and
  • English Learners earned similar grade point averages as their peers who have never been classified as ELs.

“Available public data provides an incomplete picture of the academic performance of ELs, because they are based only on active English Learners—those students who have not yet reached proficiency on a state English test—at a specific moment in time,” said Marisa de la Torre, Senior Research Associate and Managing Director at the UChicago Consortium. “The Consortium study is different because for the first time we analyzed the long-term trajectories of 18,000 CPS students who began kindergarten as ELs and followed their progress all the way through eighth grade. EL students are making progress, but the growth is not apparent when you’re looking at different groups of students each year.”

Commitment to Supporting English Learners

While the research demonstrates notable academic progress by English Learners, it also illuminates areas of opportunity for the district, including strengthened early intervention in the primary grades to ensure all English Learners are on a trajectory toward proficiency. The district has strengthened primary year academic supports through tutoring, professional development, and the launch of the Curriculum Equity Initiative, and the district will continue to strengthen academic opportunities for our students.

Strengthening Bilingual Education:The district is committed to ensuring every English Learner has the support and tools needed to succeed. The district has recently increased bilingual funding to support the ongoing progress of English Learners; notable investments and academic initiatives include:

Dual Language Expansion: Since 2016, the district more than doubled the number of schools offering dual language programs from 15 schools to 41 schools. Dual language programs help students develop literacy skills, fluency and a cultural understanding of both English and their native language through immersing students in both languages throughout their core instruction.

Building a Bilingual Educator Pipeline: CPS has increased the number of Bilingual/ESL endorsed teachers by 1,000 since 2015 through partnerships with local universities and recruitment of qualified candidates. The district is also working to strengthen its bilingual talent pipeline through its Teacher Residency Program. The CPS Teacher Residency Program is an alternate path into the classroom for those with an associate or bachelor degree in another field. The program is designed to recruit, prepare and retain diverse educators who can successfully teach in high-needs subject areas.

Community and Parent Engagement: As part of the district’s commitment to empowering parent and community voice, CPS actively engages hundreds of parents and stakeholders through the Multilingual Parent Committee and Bilingual Advisory Council to update families and stakeholders and gather feedback on critical issues. Both groups meet several times throughout the year and have hundreds of participants.

Out-of-School Tutoring: The district’s After-School English Learner Tutoring Program supports more than 5,000 English Learners at 185 schools—up from 73 schools in 2016. The district also provided summer support programs for more than 1,100 English Learners in 2019.

Seal of Biliteracy and Pathways: Since its inception in 2015, more than 5,500 CPS students have graduated with the State Seal of Biliteracy, which is a rigorous, nationally-recognized distinction that indicates students have demonstrated or proficiency in English and another language. Nearly two-thirds of the students who earn the Seal are former English Learners.

Chicago Public Schools serves 355,000 students in 642 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.