Jan 4, 2023

Improving Multilingual Student Outcomes in Nebraska

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By Jeanette Joyce, Sara McGinnis, and Carrie Parker. 

True systemic change requires time. There must be a clearly defined scope, a commitment to build a strong foundation, and a crafted partnership determined to see solutions through a holistic lens.

In this project, the Region 11 Comprehensive Center (R11CC) team partnered with Nebraska education agencies to create and systematize processes for data use and implementation of evidence-based practices to increase academic achievement. Based on 2019 student group performance data, Nebraska recognized 100 schools in need of Targeted Support and Improvement and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement for students who are multilingual learners (MLs).

In collaboration with the Nebraska education agencies, the R11CC team worked to set the expectation that this will be a long-term process. There is no quick-fix intervention to solve the challenges these schools are facing. The team agreed to focus on two pilot school partnerships that can serve as a model for implementation across the state. The two participating schools have different demographics, which will be helpful to ensure the plan will be beneficial to a variety of schools. One has seen a major growth in its ML population, with most students coming from a handful of Spanish-speaking countries. The other has a smaller ML population, but its students represent 17 distinct language groups.

For the long-term process to be successful, there must be support across an entire ecosystem and each partner must know that they are not alone on this journey. Building trust and relationships is integral to creating this strong foundation. To this end, each school identified six educators, including those with and without direct ML responsibilities, to create or expand their teacher leadership team. They will be the ones responsible for leading the effort and training the rest of their school staff.

With these teams, we conducted an examination of ML achievement and program data at each school to better understand existing programs and student experiences. Through that process, it became clear that both schools have more student achievement data and less programmatic data, and both can benefit from expanding their data collection and analysis through four lenses:

  • Instruction
  • Curriculum
  • Environment
  • Learner

The R11CC team is supporting the leadership teams through a series of data digs, which are sessions with teacher leader teams that examine available and needed data to view their school through the four lenses. The R11CC team also provides evidence-based guidance on data quality, holistic data, and program-level metrics. This comprehensive data analysis will allow schools to get a better picture of the connections between instruction, curriculum, school environment, and student learning.

The data dig will inform the selection of an evidence-based practice for each school to implement in the 2023–24 academic school year. This data gathering process will answer the question: What is the situation that needs our immediate attention? As one member of a teacher leadership team described it, “If you don’t look at all the data, you will choose an intervention that might not address the whole situation.” Each school will identify a focus as the key to its success, such as increasing ML student engagement or improving the school climate to embrace its multicultural community.

Learn more about the data dig process and our experiences in Nebraska in this presentation to the National Comprehensive Center Multilingual Learner Work Group.