Multilingual students are making significant academic progress despite perceptions otherwise

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new analysis of multilingual students’ academic progress shows that the group’s achievement in reading and math grew substantially between 2003 and 2015, challenging the perception that these students have demonstrated few academic gains in recent years.

Multilingual students’ test scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress improved two to three times more than monolingual students’ scores in both reading and math in grades 4 and 8, researchers found.

Multilingual students are those who enter school speaking a language other than English as their primary language at home, while monolingual students enter school speaking only English. English learners are multilingual students who have not yet mastered English.

“Despite the dominant perception that these students have made little academic progress in recent years, our findings indicate there is real evidence of progress for this population,” said Karen Thompson, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Education, and a co-author of the study.

The results were published recently in the journal Educational Researcher. The study’s lead author is Michael J. Kieffer, associate professor of literacy education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

Educators and policymakers have focused on improving outcomes for English learners because they face achievement and opportunity gaps that means they are less likely to complete school and go on to higher education.

The period between fourth and eighth grade is typically the time many multilingual students will master English and be “reclassified” and no longer considered English learners. Once those students are no longer considered English learners, they are not included in assessments of progress of English learners, which can obscure the growth of the overall population, Thompson said.

“Often educators are looking only at the outcomes of students who are classified as English learners, but that is a revolving door as students master the language and are no longer considered to be learning English,” Thompson said. “This study gives us a better understanding of the broader, systemic outcomes for students who enter school speaking languages other than English. The findings are very different when you look at this larger group.”

The National Assessment for Education Progress, or NAEP, is designed as a broad assessment of students’ educational performance over time. Often referred to as the “nation’s report card,” the NAEP is the only educational assessment that allows comparisons across states, Thompson said.

The researchers’ review of NAEP scores for the entire multilingual population during the study period, 2003-2015, showed that while all students improved during the study period, students who enter school speaking a language other than English are making bigger academic gains than their monolingual, English-speaking peers.

“Educators and policymakers have been misled by traditional ways of looking at achievement data for English learners,” said Kieffer. “When we look at the broader population of multilingual students, we uncover remarkable progress.”

They found that multilingual students are one-third to one-half a grade level closer to their monolingual peers in 2015 than they were in 2003. The gain was two to three times more than the improvements of the monolingual students during that period.

“There may be some gaps that persist, but this indicates that the efforts of teachers and students in the classroom are paying off,” Thompson said. “We should be shifting away from the deficit narrative that suggests English learners are not making progress. We need to recognize successes while continuing to focus on areas of need.”

The gains coincide with a number of education initiatives designed to help English learners bridge achievement gaps with their peers, including implementation of dual language programs and changes in teacher preparation and licensing regarding working with multilingual students, but more research is needed to understand what’s helping this population make academic gains, Thompson said.

The study was supported in part by the Spencer Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

Oregon State University to lead building of second ship for national research fleet

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received $88 million from the National Science Foundation to lead construction of a second Regional Class Research Vessel to help bolster the nation’s aging academic research fleet.

The National Science Foundation selected Oregon State in 2013 to lead the initial design phase for as many as three new vessels, and the National Science Board authorized as much as $365 million for the project. Last summer, the NSF awarded OSU a grant of $121.88 million to launch the construction of the first vessel, which Gulf Island Shipyards, LLC in Louisiana is building and OSU will operate. It was the largest grant in the university’s history.

The company is about to begin physical construction of the OSU-bound vessel, which is scheduled to be delivered to Oregon State in spring of 2021, and fully operational after a year of outfitting and testing.

After receipt of the additional $88 million, the university exercised an option within its contract with Gulf Island to construct and outfit a second ship. NSF is in the process of identifying and selecting an institution to operate this second vessel – likely situated on the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, according to Demian Bailey, project co-leader for OSU.

“The second ship is expected to be delivered to its operating institution sometime after the fall of 2021,” Bailey said.

The new ships are essential to support near-shore research as the United States and other countries face unprecedented challenges to their coastal waters, said Roberta Marinelli, dean of Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, low-oxygen waters or ‘hypoxia,’ sustainable fisheries, and the threat of catastrophic tsunamis are issues not only in the Pacific Northwest, but around the world,” Marinelli said. “These new vessels will provide valuable scientific capacity for better understanding our changing oceans.”

The ships will be equipped to conduct important seafloor mapping, which has become of significant importance following devastating tsunamis triggered by subduction zone earthquakes in Indonesia and Japan. The Pacific Northwest is considered a high-risk region because of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which has produced numerous major earthquakes of magnitude 8.0 or greater over the past 10,000 years.

Some characteristics of this second new regional class research vessel, which will be almost identical to the first vessel, include:

  • The vessel size, between 190 and 200 feet long with a range of more than 7,000 nautical miles;
  • Cruising speed of 11 knots, with a maximum speed of 13 knots;
  • 16 berths for scientists and 13 for crew members;
  • The ship’s ability to stay out at sea for 21 days before returning to port for fuel and supplies.

“This class of ships will enable researchers to work much more safely and efficiently at sea because of better handling and stability, and a suite of advanced sensors for measurements to characterize the atmosphere, ocean water and seafloor,” said Clare Reimers, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and project co-leader.

“They will have real-time data connectivity to shore and more capability for over-the-side operations. The design also has numerous ‘green’ features, including an optimized hull form, waste heat recovery, LED lighting and variable speed power generation.”

Bailey said a full year of testing is necessary before the new ships will be ready for scientific expeditions.

“It’s not like rolling a new car off the showroom floor,” he said. “With vessels this large and complex, and with an array of scientific instrumentation, inevitably some things will go wrong. It’s an arduous process to go through, but important because these ships will be the most advanced of their kind in the country, and we expect them to be operational for 40 years or longer.”

More information on the ships and the project is available at:

Toledo Public Library receives a grant from the Pilcrow Foundation’s Children’s Book Project

The Toledo Public Library is proud to announce that is has received a grant from the Pilcrow Foundation’s Children’s Book Project. To qualify for the grant, libraries must be located in a rural area within the 50 United States, have a limited operating budget, have an active children’s department, and raise $200-$400 through a local sponsor. Located more than 25 miles from an urban area (population over 50,000) and serving a population under 10,000, the Toledo Public Library met the qualifications making it eligible to apply for the grant.

In its fifth year, the Pilcrow Foundation is a national non-profit public charity. Its mission is to provide new, quality, hardcover children’s books to rural public libraries across the United States: “We recognize the importance of public libraries in rural communities. Libraries are often the center of the community, where people come together to learn and share ideas. Providing quality children’s books to rural public libraries ensures an opportunity for active engagement within the community and lifelong learning. We know that reading to and with children every day and providing them with frequent opportunities to read on their own are important activities for literacy development. Literacy is the greatest gift we can give to our children; the public library is where we can start.”

The Pilcrow Foundation provides a 2-to-1 match to rural public library grant recipients who contribute $200-$400 through local sponsors. Georgia Pacific Corporation of Toledo contributed the maximum amount of $400, qualifying the library to receive up to $1200 worth (at retail value) of new, quality, hardcover children’s books.  The Toledo Public Library staff is very grateful for the contributions of both the Pilcrow Foundation and Georgia Pacific! Soon new books will be on our shelves for children to enjoy; that is priceless!

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