As schools and districts work to improve the academic success for a growing number of English language learner and bilingual students, a new study provides insights into students’ perceptions of a program that grants high school credit to students with dual-language proficiency.
Researchers from Education Northwest spoke with students from the seven districts in the Puget Sound region that make up the Road Map Project, which aims to double the number of students who are college or career ready by 2020. Road Map districts have the highest poverty levels in the Seattle area, and nearly 20 percent of students in the district speak a language other than English at home.
Through the World Language Credit Program, which began in 2011, students in Road Map districts who speak, understand, read, and write in languages other than English can earn up to four high school credits — the equivalent of four years of language study — by passing language proficiency exams.
The findings in the newly released report — Credit for Proficiency — show that the program created a positive recognition of the value of bilingualism and increased students’ pride in their own strengths.
People often talk about English learners in deficit terms, that they are lacking English. Programs like this turn that around and look at the strengths of speaking another language and being bicultural. Road Map district schools are showing that they value what these kids bring with them, and that makes this part of the solution, though not the complete solution. It’s not just about reducing the dropout rate, but also finding ways to increase the value that kids see in themselves. Our findings show that kids felt good about their languages. —Credit for Proficiency Co-Author Jason Greenberg Motamedi
Students told researchers that bilingualism was useful and that their ability to translate and interpret would help them in their careers, provide access to higher paying jobs, and allow them to help other people. Students said the credits gave them “a little wiggle room” to focus on what they needed to graduate. Due to this flexibility, some enrolled in advanced-level courses to improve their college eligibility, while others were able to retake courses they had failed.