PERCENTAGES OF EXITED ELL STUDENTS BY GRADE LEVEL AND SCHOOL IN AN URBAN TRANSITIONAL BILINGUAL PROGRAM: IMPLICATIONS FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS
Garcia, Maria Teresa
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The United States of America has the unique challenge of educating a student population that comes from linguistically diverse backgrounds. During the decade from 1998-99 to 2008-09, the English Language Learner (ELL) population in U.S. pre-K-12 schools increased 51%, however, the total pre-K-12 population only grew by 7.2% (NCELA, 2011). Data from the 2010-11 school year indicate that Texas public schools serve about 4,933,617 students and 831,812 of those students are labeled Limited English Proficient (LEP). In Texas, the linguistic and academic needs of LEP students whose native language is Spanish are met by the bilingual program. The amount of time it takes ELLs to attain proficiency in English has been investigated by numerous researchers. Cummins (2006) argued that conversational fluency takes about one to two years for ELLs to develop, but that it takes 5 years or longer for ELLs to catch up to native English speakers in academic English. The purpose of this study was to examine the percentages of exited ELL students by grade level and school who were identified as ELL in prekindergarten and kindergarten and continuously enrolled in the study district’s transitional bilingual program. The data set was comprised of students (n = 6,238) enrolled in the bilingual program during the 2010-2011 school year who were continuously enrolled in any of the 31 elementary schools and 11 intermediate schools in the study district. Descriptive statistics was the procedure used to describe the distributions of data (Wiersma & Jurs, 2009). Study results were that by the end of fifth grade, 49.18% of students continuously enrolled in the bilingual program met exit criteria. The findings of this study should encourage educators to seek research-based methods to differentiate instruction in order to meet the linguistic and academic needs of ELL students effectively. Further research is needed to identify bilingual program models that effectively transition bilingual students from Spanish to English instruction in school districts where a high percentage of low-socioeconomic and Spanish-speaking ELL students exist.