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IES Grant

Title: Does Expansion of Bilingual Programming Support Equitable Access for Multilingual Learners? An Examination of LOOK Act Implementation in Massachusetts
Center: NCER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Faulkner-Bond, Molly Awardee: WestEd
Program: Using Longitudinal Data to Support State Education Policymaking      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2023 – 06/30/2026) Award Amount: $992,553
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305S230006
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Balter, Allison; Winner, Kendra; Hopkins, Megan

Partner Institutions: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Purpose: The research team will examine implementation of the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act in Massachusetts, focusing on the extent to which the expansion of bilingual programming through the LOOK Act supports equitable access to and participation in dual language education (DLE) and State Seal of Biliteracy (SSoB) programs for multilingual learners (MLs). They will also look at the extent to which access to and participation in these bilingual programs is associated with differential outcomes for MLs.

Project Activities: The project team from WestEd and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will conduct three overarching lines of analyses using state data from academic year 2004/05 to 2023/24:

  1. Descriptively analyze the extent to which DLE and SSoB programs are located in multilingual communities, districts, and schools serving large proportions of MLs and how access may have changed with implementation of the LOOK Act
  2. Descriptively analyze the extent to which MLs and important ML student groups are enrolled in DLE programs and completing the SSoB and how access and completion have changed over time
  3. Estimate the relationship between access to and enrollment in or completion of DLE and SSoB programs and student academic, engagement, course-taking

Products: The research team will produce annual reports and presentations for DESE and other state interest holders, a public-facing website that hosts key study findings and interactive maps that display DLE and SSoB programs in relation to community and district demographics, a leadership guide with considerations for administrators related to bilingual program implementation, research briefs, peer-reviewed publications, and conference presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in Massachusetts.

Sample: The study will include all students in Massachusetts public K12 schools from academic year 2004/05 to 2023/24 with a focus on multilingual learners (MLs) or students who have ever been classified as English learners (ELs) and on several important ML student groups. These groups include recently arrived immigrant MLs, MLs who have been classified as ELs for more than 6 years, MLs with limited or interrupted formal education, and MLs with disabilities.

Key Issue, Program, or Policy: With the passage of the LOOK Act in 2017, the Massachusetts state legislature expanded bilingual programming for MLs by dismantling substantial hurdles to implementing dual language education (DLE) programs that were previously in place and by establishing the State Seal of Biliteracy (SSoB). The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has limited information on the extent to which MLs, a key population for whom bilingual programming can provide asset-based instruction and opportunities to develop bilingualism and biliteracy, (a) have access to and enroll in, DLE programs, (b) have access to schools that offer the SSoB, and (c) complete the SSoB. The LOOK Act was passed to address key outcome disparities between students classified as ELs and their peers. However, thus far there is limited evidence on the extent to which the expansion of DLE and SSoB programs may be associated with improved outcomes for MLs.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will use descriptive and correlational analyses to produce information about whether MLs, as well as different ML student groups, may have differential access to DLE and SSoB programs, in comparison with their peers, and the extent to which access and participation have changed over time. To examine the relationship between access to or enrollment in bilingual programs and ML outcomes, the research team will use correlational and quasi-experimental methods. For DLE programs, the research team will use an intent-to-treat approach to estimate the relationship between being in a school that offers a DLE program and student outcomes. In two additional analyses, the research team will use a matching approach to estimate the relationship between enrolling in a DLE program and student outcomes. They will then draw on data from a subset of districts that use lottery-based admissions processes to build two-stage least squares regression models that estimate the effect of enrolling in a DLE program on student outcomes. For SSoB programs, the research team will use a staggered difference-in-differences design that leverages the staggered adoption of the SSoB to estimate the effect of a school offering the SSoB on student outcomes. Then, the research team will use a matching approach to estimate the relationship between a student completing the SSoB and the probability of the student enrolling in a postsecondary institute of higher education.

Control Condition: Analyses will compare MLs' access, enrollment, completion, and outcomes to those of non-MLs over time, with a focus on the extent to which these comparisons changed after passage of the LOOK Act. Additionally, within-group analyses will compare access enrollment, completion, and outcomes among ML student groups.

Key Measures: For selected correlational and regression analyses, the outcome of interest is access to or enrollment in DLE programs and schools that offer the SSoB, as well as completion of the SSoB upon graduation. Other outcomes of interest that will be examined in relation to access to or participation in DLE programs and the SSoB include student attendance rate, student scores on standardized English language arts and math assessments, student Views of Climate and Learning survey responses, student enrollment in and completion of core content coursework, secondary school completion, and enrollment in a postsecondary institution of higher education.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use descriptive statistics and regression analyses to examine access to DLE and SSoB programs. To estimate the relationship between access to or enrollment in DLE programs and student outcomes, the research team will use regression analyses, overall and with a student sample reduced to more comparable groups, through a coarsened exact matching approach, as well as an instrumental variables approach. To estimate the effect of being in a school that offers the SSoB on student outcomes, the research team will use a difference-in-differences approach. Additionally, regression analysis that uses coarsened exact matching as a pre-processing step will be used to estimate the relationship between completing the SSoB and student outcomes.

State Decision Making: The findings will be useful in supporting DESE in identifying communities, districts, and schools that would benefit from guidance, resources, and technical assistance to expand program options and/or to revise existing programs. The research-based products that will be developed will facilitate data-driven decision making aligned with DESE's vision to support MLs' equitable access to programs that foster bilingualism and biliteracy.

Related IES Projects: SLDS grants to Massachusetts: Developing and Implementing the Schools Interoperability Framework as the Engine for Massachusetts LDS Data Collection and Management (R372090038), Massachusetts Information Providing Accelerated Student Success from Preschool to Occupations in Real Time (i-PASSPORT) (R384A100044), 2015 Massachusetts SLDS Grant Application (R372A150030), Massachusetts Partnership for Equity Through Evidence-Based Policy (R372A200016)


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