REL West in the News

REL West Dropout Prevention Event Featured In the News

Utah Education Leaders Tackle Problem of High School Dropout Rate
The Salt Lake Tribune—November 14, 2011

REL West's event on dropout prevention, co-hosted with the Utah State Office of Education and the National Dropout Prevention Center, was featured in The Salt Lake Tribune. The event featured Dr. Russell Rumberger presenting the six recommendations in the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide, Dropout Prevention, of which he is a co-author, along with a number of panel discussions.

An excerpt from the article is featured below:

"Linda Toli didn’t think she would finish high school. She had missed too many days, fallen too far behind and thought the whole situation hopeless. 'I didn’t think I belonged there because I was way behind and couldn’t get help,' said the 17 year old.

Toli — who has since gotten back on track after transferring to Horizonte Instruction and Training Center — was one of five students who shared their stories with education, state and community leaders Monday as part of an event called Dropout Prevention: Next Steps for Utah. Education leaders staged the event in the hope it will mark the beginning of a new approach to addressing the problem of high school dropouts in Utah.

Among last year’s Class of 2010, 10 percent of students overall dropped out of school. Among Latino students — Utah’s largest minority group — 26 percent dropped out.

Monday’s event — which featured speakers, research and discussions — represented the launch of a partnership between the State Office of Education, the National Dropout Prevention Center and REL West, a program of WestEd, a nonprofit research, development and service agency.

Starting this year, the National Dropout Prevention Center will provide technical assistance to help five Utah schools — Alta High in Sandy, Highland High in Salt Lake City, Grantsville High in Grantsville, East Shore High School in Orem, and South Hills Middle School in Riverton — develop dropout prevention plans. In devising those plans, schools will look at research, causes, needs and strategies that have been proven effective. They’re the first of about 30 schools in the state that leaders hope to help over the next few years."

IES Publishes New REL West Technical Brief

REL Technical Brief Compares Reading and Math Proficiency Rates Across Student Subgroups
IES Newsflash—October 25, 2011

The IES Newsflash highlighted REL West's latest Technical Brief, Comparing Achievement Trends in Reading and Math Across Arizona Public School Student Subgroups.

The Newsflash is posted below, in its entirety:

School achievement trends are critical gauges of the effectiveness of school support efforts to raise academic performance. To better monitor school support efforts, the Arizona Department of Education requested that reading and math proficiency data be disaggregated by student subgroup, building on a previous study that reported aggregate results (Crane et al. 2011).

This REL West Technical Brief, Comparing Achievement Trends in Reading and Math Across Arizona Public School Student Subgroups, examines the 2008/09 reading and math proficiency rates of four categories of Arizona public school students: race/ethnicity, English language learner status, disability status, and economic status. The brief describes how student subgroup performance differs by school level (elementary, middle, and high), across three school types: Title I Schools in Improvement (schools in a program under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 to improve academic performance in schools not meeting adequate yearly progress in at least two consecutive years); Title I schools Not in Improvement; and non–Title I schools. The same analyses were conducted for charter schools.

To view the full report on the IES website, visit:


EdWeek features REL webinar on data-driven instruction in rural schools

Making Data-Driven Decisions In Rural Schools
Education Week—September 14, 2011

REL West's Ellen Mandinach, a national expert on understanding data-driven decisionmaking in education settings, was the featured presenter during a webinar on that issue as it pertains to rural schools and districts. Read more about the event in the EdWeek article by Diette Courrege.

REL West researchers present at AERA 2011 Annual Meeting: "Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Good"

American Educational Research Association's 2011 Annual Meeting
REL West—April 08, 2011

REL West authors presented their research at this year's AERA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA, April 8–12.

Presentations included:

  • English Learner Performance Patterns on the Utah Academic Language Proficiency Assessment (UALPA) and the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS), Utah's Language Proficiency and Academic Content Tests – presented by Vanessa Barrat
  • Accommodations for English Learner Students: The Effect of Linguistic Modification of Math Test Item Sets – presented by Edynn Sato, Stanley Rabinowitz, Carole Gallagher, Chun-Wei (Kevin) Huang
  • Progress of English Learners on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT), California's English Proficiency Exam – presented by Robert Linquanti
  • Assessing English Learner Achievement: Pass-Fail Status on Arizona's Language and Content Tests Over 2 Years – presented by Eric Haas
  • Labor Market Trends for School Leadership: A California Perspective – presented by Reino Makkonen and Melissa White
  • Effects of Problem-Based Economics on High School Economics Instruction – presented by Neal Finkelstein and Chun-Wei (Kevin) Huang

REL West Utah ELL assessment study featured in EdWeek

Is Utah's English Fluency Bar for ELLs Too High?
Education Week—March 08, 2011

In Ed Week's Learning the Language blog, Mary Ann Zehr explores the question "Is Utah's English Fluency Bar for ELLs Too High?" with the recently published REL West Issues & Answers report, The relationship between English proficiency and content knowledge for English language learner students in grades 10 and 11 in Utah. Below is the complete blog post:

In Utah, 39 percent of ELLs in 10th grade who meet the state's standard to be redesignated as fluent in English on the state's regular content test do not meet the bar for English fluency on the state's English-language-proficiency test, according to a study just released by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (See Table 1).

In other words, more than one in three ELLs in 10th grade who meet the bar to exit special programs to learn English (and no longer be an ELL) on the state's regular content English test do not meet the fluency bar on the English-language-proficiency test designed only for and taken only by ELLs.

The study doesn't say this explicitly, but the finding begs the question of whether the standard for reaching fluency on Utah's English-language-proficiency test is too hard. To get out of special programs to learn English in the state, ELLs must score "advanced" on the state's English-proficiency test while also scoring in the top three of six categories (2b or above) on the regular English content test. The study found that 33 percent of ELLs in 10th grade meet the first requirement and 42 percent of ELLs in that same grade meet the second requirement.

"English-language learners are doing what's required of them to be redesignated [as fluent] in greater numbers relative to the content test than the language-proficiency test," said Eric W. Crane, the study's lead author and a senior research associate with the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd, in a phone interview.

At the request of the Utah State Office of Education, REL West at WestEd conducted the study to investigate anecdotal reports that ELLs in Utah were performing better on the state's English content assessment than its English-language proficiency test.

This issue is not unique to Utah. I've blogged before about how I've met students in another state—New York—who have passed that state's English content exam (the regents' exam) without passing the state's English-proficiency test.

REL Network's webinar series on supporting rural ELLs featured in EdWeek

Free Webinars on Educating ELLs in Rural Areas
Education Week—March 04, 2011

REL West, in collaboration with REL Midwest and four other RELs, is hosting a free webinar series: Serving English Language Learner Students in a Rural Context. This webinar series was mentioned in EdWeek's Learning the Language blog. The complete blog post appears below:

The Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest is hosting a series of webinars on best practices for educating English-language learners in a rural setting. One has already taken place, but another one is scheduled for this coming Wednesday, March 9, and third is slated for the following Wednesday. The March 9 webinar starts at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Space is limited.

The events feature both researchers who specialize in the education of ELLs and educators who work with them in schools. Though I see reports from time to time about the rapidly growing numbers of ELLs in rural schools, rarely do I see an event or publication that supports educators to design programs particularly suited for a rural setting. Typical challenges are that universities are miles away that could provide training for how to work with ELLs, and rural communities may not have bilingual people who can aid with interpretation for parents.

This series of webinars is meant to fill that information gap.

REL West's Utah conference featured in local television news

Education officials hold conference to improve Utah schools
Fox 13 News—January 10, 2011

REL West and the Southwest Comprehensive Center at WestEd, in partnership with the offices of the Utah Governor, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Commissioner of Higher Education, hosted this one-day event that brought together the state’s K-16 education leaders to strengthen and accelerate efforts to increase college readiness, access, and success for all Utah students. This Fox 13 News website link features a brief summary of the event, along with a video of the event featuring an interview with William Sederburg (Utah Commissioner of Higher Education).


New REL West mobility study featured in Education Daily

Student mobility differs between ELLs, other students
Education Daily—October 28, 2010

Education Daily ran an article featuring REL West's latest Issues & Answers report, Patterns of student mobility among English language learner students in Arizona public schools.

The first two (of seven) paragraphs read:

"Experts say Arizona’s student population offers an excellent opportunity
to examine the effect of high student mobility on ELLs as a group. The
Arizona Department of Education approached the federal Regional
Educational Laboratory West about conducting research on the magnitude
of student mobility in the state.

As a result of that request, REL West recently released "Patterns of
Student Mobility among English Language Learner Students in Arizona
Public Schools," which also sought to confirm similarity with other
studies’ findings of associations between student mobility and
identifying student characteristics like special-education status or
race and ethnicity."


REL West mobility study featured in Ed Week

Mobility for Arizona's ELLs is Higher Than for Other Students
Ed Week—October 25, 2010

Ed Week's Learning the Language blog featured REL West's recent Issues & Answers report, Patterns of Student Mobility among English Language Learner Students in Arizona Public Schools.

Here is the complete blog post:

More than a quarter of Arizona's students changed schools over a four-year period, but the state's English-language learners experienced more mobility than other students, a report released this week by the Institute of Education Sciences says. But the gap in mobility between ELLs and other students narrowed over the four years that the study was conducted, from the 2004-05 school year to the 2007-08 school year.

For ELLs, the mobility rate declined from 31.3 percent to 25.9 percent during that period, while for all other students the decline was from 27.7 to 25.0 percent. The study included in the category of ELLs all students who were classified at any time during the four-year period as having limited proficiency in English.

News reports that some immigrant families with undocumented members have left Arizona for other states because of the state's new immigration-enforcement law make me wonder if the gap in mobility rates between ELLs and non-ELLs might have widened again since the last school year that was examined in the study.

The study says the highest mobility rate for ELLs is in high school. More than a third (34.9 percent) moved from one school to another during the 2004-05 school year and 28.4 percent changed schools during the 2007-08 school year.

Mobility is important, the study points out, because it is associated with lower student achievement. The authors write that research shows ELLs benefit from a coherent plan of instruction. They add that it might be hard for ELLs to get that if they are on the move.

The authors note that little research has focused on understanding the mobility of ELLs.

I agree. This is the first study I've seen on this topic. The report was prepared by the Regional Educational Laboratory West, which is administered by WestEd.

IES Publishes REL West Experimental Study

Linguistic Modification of Math Test Items Helps English Language Learners
IES Newsflash—June 28, 2010

The IES Newsflash cited REL West's June 2010 rigorous study publication, Accommodations for English Language Learner Students: The Effect of Linguistic Modification of Math Test Item Sets.

The Newsflash is posted below, in its entirety:

REL West’s study on middle school math assessment accommodations found that simplifying the language—or linguistic modification—on standardized math test items made it easier for English Language learners to focus on and grasp math concepts, and thus was a more accurate assessment of their math skills.

The results contribute to the body of knowledge informing assessment practices and accommodations appropriate for English language learner students.

The study examined students’ performance on two sets of math items—both the originally worded items and those that had been modified. Researchers analyzed results from three subgroups of students— English learners (EL), non-English language arts proficient (NEP), and English language arts proficient (EP) students.

Key results include:
• Linguistically modifying the language of mathematics test items did not change the math knowledge being assessed.

• The effect of linguistic modification on students’ math performance varied between the three student subgroups. The results also varied depending on how scores were calculated for each student.

• For each of the four scoring approaches analyzed, the effect of linguistic modification was greatest for EL students, followed by NEP and EP students.

To view the full report, visit:

REL West Report Cited in School Leader Shortage Article

EdCal—May 03, 2010

EdCal, the official weekly newspaper of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), cited a REL West report, School-Site Administrators: A California County and Regional Perspective on Labor Market Trends, in an article about the shortage of school leaders in California.

REL West Paper Presented at AERA 2010 Annual Meeting

AERA 2010 Annual Meeting Online Searchable Program
Session: Precollege and College Preparation Issues —May 02, 2010

REL West researchers, Neal Finkelstein and Min Huang, presented a paper, High School Course-Taking Patterns for English Language Learners: A Case Study From California, at the 2010 AERA Annual Meeting. In examining data from 54 high schools in California, they investigated the patterns by which ELLs enrolled in and completed English and math courses in 9th grade, and how this related to college preparedness by the time the students were high school seniors. Findings showed that ELLs had significantly lower enrollment and completion rates in English and math courses as compared to non-English learners. However, among ELL students there was wide variation in academic achievement; students who were designated as ELL in 9th grade were more than twice as likely to by prepared for college at the end of high school as compared to students who were designated as ELL in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. This paper was based on a previously published REL West study: Course-taking Patterns and Preparation for Postsecondary Education in California's Public University Systems Among Minority Youth.

REL West Researcher Presents Mobility Study Findings at AERA 2010 Annual Meeting

AERA 2010 Annual Meeting Online Searchable Program
Session: Addressing the Achievement of Diverse Student Populations—May 01, 2010

REL West researcher Min Huang presented a paper, An Examination of English Language Learner Student Mobility in Arizona, at the AERA Annual Meeting this year in Denver. While previous research has examined student mobility among all students, little is known about the mobility rates of English language learner (ELL) students. As a result, states that have large populations of ELLs, like Arizona, struggle to make instructional and organizational policies to meet the needs of this growing population. The goal of this study is to help the Arizona Department of Education better understand the state's mobility and ELL population. The findings show that students who were classified as ELL and who qualified for the free and reduced-price lunch program (FRL) tended to exhibit more mobility as compared to non-ELL and non-FRL students. In addition, the findings indicate that the majority of student transfers occur between districts rather than within them. This study is expected to be published by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences in summer 2010.


REL West Study Cited

The Curriculum Feed
California ASCD—February 26, 2010

The California Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's electronic newsletter, The Curriculum Feed, recently cited a REL West study, School-site Administrators: A California County and Regional Perspective on Labor Market Trends (PDF). The study, authored by Melissa Eiler White, Anthony Fong, and Reino Makkonen, found that projected administrator retirements in each county for 2008/09 - 2017/18 ranged from 18 percent of the 2007/08 workforce to 72 percent.


Education Week Notes REL West Report on School-Site Administrators

"School-Site Administrators: A California County and Regional Perspective on Labor Market Trends"
Education Week—February 24, 2010

Based on a study conducted by REL West, the report reveals that some California counties will need to replace as much as 71 percent of their school-site administrator workforce in the coming decade, while others face only a 9 percent replacement rate. The highest needs are projected to occur in the Central Valley and inland Southern California regions of the state, areas where many counties are characterized by high levels of poverty.

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