Honolulu: 40% of English-language learners struggle

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Jan 10 14:50:05 UTC 2009

40% of English-language learners struggle

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer

Forty percent of Hawai'i public school students classified as
English-language learners are failing to make progress toward English
proficiency, according to a new report. The results are part of
Quality Counts 2009, a project of the nonprofit Editorial Progress in
Education, which publishes Education Week. Quality Counts has been
examining education policy through its comparative study for the past
13 years. Each year, the report highlights a specific aspect of
education policy. This year's report, released Tuesday, examined the
academic achievement of English-language learners, state by state.
English-language learners are students for whom English is a new

Hawai'i is not alone in its struggle to help English-language learners
achieve, the report found. In fact, Quality Count reports that
nationally, 25 percent of ELL students are not making progress. Maine
had the highest percentage of students, 45 percent, failing to make
process toward English proficiency. New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana
were also among those who had a high percentage of ELL students
failing to grasp the English language.

On the other hand, the report found that 42 percent of Hawai'i's ELL
students are making progress toward English proficiency. Another 6
percent have reached it. Andreas Wiegand, state specialist for the
English Language Learner program, said the state has made progress
over the past several years. But he said that Hawai'i faces many

"We do have a very diverse group of ELL students, which spans 75-plus
languages," Wiegand said. "That makes providing bilingual support very

Ilocano and Tagalog are the most commonly spoken second languages in
Hawai'i's schools. That's followed by Marshallese and Chuukese.

Much of the increase in Hawai'i's ELL population came from 2001 to
2006 and was made up primarily of Marshallese and Chuukese students.
Weigand said the state had to adapt its second language strategy
during this period of growth.

There are about 17,000 ELL students in Hawai'i.

"It's a significant and growing population when the general education
population is on the decline," he said.

Hawai'i's ELL students have made progress on standardized test scores,
yet they still trail their English-speaking peers, the report found.

For instance, only 16 percent of ELL students were proficient in
mathematics in 2006-2007. That percentage increased to 26 percent the
next year.

Likewise, about 24 percent of ELL students were proficient in reading
in 2006-2007. That compares with 35 percent in 2007-2008.

"The indications are that we're making progress in this sub-group, but
we're certainly not where we would want to be," Wiegand said.

Meanwhile, Quality Counts 2009 gave Hawai'i's overall education system
a grade of C. That's on par with the grade given to the nation as a

Hawai'i received a D in the area of student achievement, the
lowest-scoring category for Hawai'i's public schools. More
specifically, the report ranked Hawai'i near the bottom of the list in
terms of its public school graduation rate.

Quality Counts listed Hawai'i's graduation rate as 64.1 percent, a
number disputed by the state Department of Education.

The DOE recorded its 2004 graduation rate — the same year being
examined by the report — at 79.8 percent.

Education officials have said that the DOE has one of the more
reliable methods of calculating the graduation rate. Because of
Hawai'i's statewide school district, the state is able to track
individual students through graduation and therefore has a more
accurate count of the state's graduation rate.


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