In their analysis of their research, published July 17th in The Conversation, Thompson and Kieffer share that this success is the result of a complex effort. "Our findings not only show that multilingual students are learning more now than in the past, but they also suggest to us that schools and districts are serving these students more effectively."
The category of 'multilingual students' is a nuanced designation, created to reflect the growing number of children who are speaking more than one language. "Multilingual students include all students who speak a language other than English at home. About 1 in 5 children in the U.S. fall into this category." There are several subcategories for multilingual children, including English language learners, former English Language Learners, and those who speak another language at home but were proficient in English when starting school.
Image credit to Kieffer and Thompson, 2018
This broader definition and inclusion of subcategories allowed the research team to analyze the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data differently. "We define multilingual broadly to include students at different levels of proficiency in their multiple languages. Given our prior work, we were not surprised to find that NAEP trends for multilingual students as a whole looked different than trends for current English learners. We were, however, surprised, by the extent of the progress multilingual students had made, given that this group has been historically and chronically underserved."
Please visit the website of the journal, Education Researcher, to learn more and to read the full article.
-Mary Bridget Burns, TWIN-CS Assistant Director