Audit finds bilingual programs comply with law, raises questions about results

A report released Wednesday by the Legislative Division of Post Audit says the Kansas State Department of Education has correctly calculated and administered bilingual weightings fund, and school districts have generally followed KSDE guidelines. Here is link to new audit. 

It also says Kansas bilingual students spend about the same amount time in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs (5-8 years) as in other states, but after leaving these programs, such students do worse on states assessments than the “all” student group, and a majority are at the same testing level three years after leaving the program as one year after leaving. 

The report did not appear to disaggregate other factors that might cause ESOL students to have lower scores, such as poverty. 

Kansas provides $42 million in bilingual services to about 56,000 students (11 percent of statewide enrollment) although not all districts provide these services. A close examination of 25 districts found that most districts spend more on these services than they receive in state aid. 

Federal law requires districts to provide ESOL services, but districts decide which services to provide. Most of the funding goes to salaries and benefits of staff providing services to English Learners. 

The audit said most districts track individual student progress but do not regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their ESOL programs. It also notes that districts report a number of challenges, including the fact many students have received limited education before entering the district, regardless of age; that some districts have students speaking many more languages than they can provide speakers or translators for; and that finding teachers with ESOL endorsement is difficult. 

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