I have emailed the following to PPS Board members:
Subject: 2017-18 budget: Reading/writing improvement investments
Superintendent McKean’s proposed 2017-18 budget proposes $2.2 million to expand the new reading and writing program it began last year. This is not a proven, tested approach to improving English reading and writing skills. A better investment strategy would be to aggressively expand dual language immersion programs. Recall that the Rand-PPS study found that students, both English-native and foreign-language native, randomly assigned to immersion programs outperformed their peers in English reading by about 7 months in grade 5, and about 9 months in grade 8. So, please do not push a second-best approach (the $2.2 million proposed) without a greater push on the best approach (expanding dual language immersion programs) to increasing reading and writing skills.
(1) Dual Language Immersion programs not only teach significant second language skills but raise English reading skills for both English-native and foreign-language-native students and, therefore, should over time become the dominant model of public education in Oregon.
The 2012-15 “Study of Dual-Language Immersion in the Portland Public Schools” by RAND, the American Councils for International Education, and Portland Public Schools found that “Immersion programs as implemented in Portland appear to be a cost-effective strategy for raising English reading performance of both native English speakers and native speakers of other languages.”
The study included 27,741 students who enrolled in kindergarten in Portland Public Schools in 2004-05 through 2010-11. These students’ academic performance on the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) was tracked in reading, mathematics, and science through 2013-14, meaning that the youngest cohort was tracked through grade 3, and the oldest two cohorts through grade 8.
Within the sample, the main focus was on 1,625 students who were randomized to immersion or a control group via Portland’s immersion pre-K and Kindergarten immersion lotteries in 2004-05 through 2010-11. Through collaboration with the Oregon Department of Education, the study was able to include 200 randomized students (about 10.3%) who never enrolled in Portland after entering a pre-K or kindergarten immersion lottery. This left a similarly modest levels of sample attrition for students who won the lottery (13%) versus those who did not (19.3%).
The study found that students randomly assigned to immersion outperformed their peers in English reading by about 7 months in grade 5, and about 9 months in grade 8.
Further, DLI program costs about the same as non-DLI programs. The study found no evidence that observable peer, teacher, and class size characteristics were driving the effects of immersion on achievement. Class sizes appeared similar for immersion lottery winners and those who did not win immersion slots. Based on interviews in 2013-14 with 14 of 19 immersion school principals, they found that school-level resources for DLI and non-DLI Programs were proportional to immersion enrollments. DLI operating costs were concentrated at the district level. In 2013-14, they represented about 0.1% of the district’s operating budget (excluding grant dollars), though this represented a considerable increase in DLI costs from prior years. These expenditures, which were applied toward teacher professional development and curriculum support, amounted to $137 per immersion student in 2013-14 (n=4,108).
(2) PPS parents want more immersion programs.
For 2016-17, 443 kindergarteners were turned away from dual language immersion programs. At 25 per kindergarten class, that would be enough for 17 additional immersion strands. Per the PPS-Rand study, by the end of eighth grade, all 443 students turned down will be one school year (nine months) behind those admitted to immersions programs in English reading skills.
(3) Superintendent McKean’s proposal:
From the 4/4/17 Oregonian:
(4) The $2.2 million approach is unproven and untested-over-time.
From the Oregonian article 5/27/16 at the start of the first year of the program: