English Learner students were excelling in Diamond Lake, a half-Hispanic school district in northern Illinois. The percentage of ELs reading proficiently had soared from 33 percent in 2004 to 71 percent; math proficiency rose from 49 percent to 79 percent. Then the state cut off funding, discovering that Diamond Lakes had dropped bilingual classes in favor of teaching in English with extra support in Spanish only as needed. After a big fight, the district got its EL funding back. Superintendent Roger Prosise explains what works (pdf) on the Lexington Institute site.
First, you need good teachers. Diamond Lakes can find good English-speaking teachers and reading specialists to teach small elementary classes but couldn’t find enough good bilingual teachers. You need good instructional materials: They’re available in English but scarce in Spanish and even scarcer in Polish, Chinese, etc.
The district also has a successful dual-language program: Half the students are Spanish speakers usually from low-income families and half are English speakers typically from middle-class families. They learn half the day in English and half in Spanish. The middle-class parents act as watchdogs, making sure the instruction meets high standards. In the years when Hispanic children were segregated in bilingual classes, their immigrant parents accepted the low achievement without complaint, Prosise writes.