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Oregon Ed. Official: Results for English-Learners 'Unacceptable'

State education officials in Oregon today announced that they will take steps to overhaul their instructional programs for English-language learners in the coming months, saying that achievement levels for ELLs are either stagnant or moving backwards.

The state released its 2011-2012 Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) for English-learners, which revealed that statewide, too few ELLs met the achievement targets required for them as a subgroup under Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known currently as the No Child Left Behind law.

Specifically, the state made no progress in increasing the percentage of ELLs who moved up by one level in their level of English proficiency (AMAO 1). The percentage of ELLs who reached proficiency and moved on from the program (AMAO 2) fell short of its target of 17 percent and actually went down overall from the previous year. One bit of positive news related to AMAO 2 is that the percentage of ELLs who've been identified for five or more years (long-term English-learners) who reached proficiency and moved on from language-acquisition programs did exceed the target of 26.5 percent, but slid back slightly from last year's result. Finally, 11 school districts met all of the AMAO targets for English-learners (AMAO 3) last year, while 62 districts did not. The state's remaining districts either had too few ELLs to be rated under this AMAO or none at all.

Rob Saxton, Oregon's deputy superintendent of public instruction, called the lack of progress for ELLs "simply unacceptable." Further, he said, "As we work to redesign our state's education system around common goals and rigorous outcomes, improving services and supports to our English-language learners will be a critical piece in the equation. Continuing down our current path is not an option." Using new flexibility under its waiver from ESEA, Oregon will be making some major changes to its programming for English-language learners, Mr. Saxton said.

That may well be the most candid public statement I've seen from a top education official on the performance of English-learners in the year I've been covering this beat.

Oregon is already in the midst of several strands of work to improve instruction for the roughly 60,000 English-learners (about 10 percent of the state's K-12 enrollment) in its public schools. The state outlined many of its plans to change ELL programs in its waiver application. Oregon is also the lead state in a group of 13 that recently won a $6.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to revamp its English Language Development Assessment, or ELPA, which ELLs take each year to measure their progress toward proficiency. Called ELPA21, the new assessment will be designed to measure the language demands in the common standards.

The Oregonian has more details on what the state plans to do to improve outcomes for English-learners.

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