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José A. Cárdenas 2015 School Finance Fellows Program Research Symposium

robledomontecelLow Funding for Educating ELLs Affects Students Across Texas

New Research on Education of English Learners in Middle School and High School Released at IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow Program Symposium

When: February 2, 2015

English language learners make up the fastest growing segment of the student population but they are one of the lowest academically performing groups of students, and the achievement gap widens as students progress through school. Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos, IDRA’s inaugural José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow, presented his research findings on securing educational equity & excellence for English language learners in Texas secondary schools at a symposium in San Antonio.

“English language learners are almost one out of five students in the state of Texas and are not being well served idra_symposium_2015by schools in Texas. They continue to be placed in underfunded, poorly monitored, segregated programs that do not produce results, particularly in middle school and high school,” stated Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President.

“We are taking a look at what needs to be done to assure they are prepared for college. Right now, for example, only one out of 10 English language learners is prepared to go to college. That’s outrageous,” added Dr. Robledo Montecel.

Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos began: “Before conducting the study, I had a perception that Texas was at the leading edge of educating English language learners. I was expecting to find real solutions to national issues related to secondary English language learners. But I learned that Texas is not the utopia I had envisioned.”

In person and via livecast, the event gathered more than 80 education and community leaders, and experts in law and education research around the critical question of how we can improve secondary education quality and access for English learners. A panel of experts reflected on key themes and questions raised by the research and participants explored important implications of the research for education quality and equity for English learners in policy and practice.

Important points from the research, the event and our work in this area:

• This study found no secondary schools in Texas that are consistently exceeding academic benchmarks with ell_collegereadyELLs. The schools with highest ELL achievement expend significantly more general funds than other schools.

• Texas is significantly underfunding ELL education (with supplemental funding of only 10 percent despite research indicating much higher weights are needed).

• Though increasing ELL weighted funding is important, the funding weight alone is not sufficient without also increasing funding for the base program for all students.

• Reporting on the status of ELL education in Texas schools has not been providing a clear picture since much of the data lumps elementary and secondary grade level data.

• The majority of ELL students are U.S. born.

• While Texas only mandates schools to provide ELL programs if they have at least 20 ELL students in a grade level, federal policy requires schools to serve every ELL student – as was reiterated recently by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice.

Symposium Proceedings

In June 2015, IDRA released the proceedings report of the IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program symposium focusing on education of English language learners. The report shares key insights from the robust discussion among the participants in IDRA’s ELL symposium along with the research study conducted by Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos. The report also provides a set of recommendations useful for policymakers, educators, community and business leaders and parents.



oscar_smallJosé A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow – Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos

IDRA has named Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos to be our 2014 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow for this inaugural year of the program, which we have established to honor the memory of IDRA founder, Dr. José Angel Cárdenas. The goal of the program is engage the nation’s most promising researchers in investigating school finance solutions that secure equity and excellence for all public school students.

“Dr. José A. Cárdenas dedicated his life to improving educational opportunities for all children, leading decades-long efforts to achieve school finance equity,” said Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA president. “Research is needed as we continue our work to move to fair funding and opportunity for all students. We are so pleased to have named Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos as our first fellow to advance this research.”

“I am honored and humbled in receiving the inaugural IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellowship award to conduct research to improve the funding for the most vulnerable populations while striving toward equity and excellence,” Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos said.

An assistant professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos has published extensively in the area of K-12 education finance, policy and parent engagement and its impact on opportunity, equity and outcomes in low-income ethnically and linguistically diverse communities. He received his master’s degree in policy studies from San Diego State University and his doctorate in education from Claremont Graduate University. His work has been published in academic journals, such as Review of Educational Research, Bilingual Research Journal, Educational Considerations, and Journal of Latinos and Education. He is lead editor of the Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) Journal. Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos is a 2012 Ford Postdoctoral Fellow administered by the National Research Council of the National Academies. He was bestowed the honor of a Fulton Professor in 2011 and served as Arizona’s Acting Director of the University Research Council (URC) in Education.

As IDRA’s 2014 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow, Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos will conduct an important and timely empirical study to examine the amount of supplemental funding above the base funding level that is required to effectively implement appropriate services for English language learners at the secondary level in the State of Texas. More than 11 million school-age children speak a language other than English at home, and Texas enrolls the second largest population of K-12 English language learners. IDRA has been at the forefront in supporting legislative and litigation efforts to address the insufficient funding for education ELLs in Texas and the poor monitoring and implementation of programs serving ELLs at the secondary level.

IDRA’s fellowship was established to focus on and fund school finance research that builds cross-disciplinary and inter-sector perspectives on equity. Fellows dedicate themselves to a period of intense study and writing in school finance, with the effort culminating in an annual symposium that includes release of the fellow’s program paper. The paper and findings will be published in the symposium proceedings and disseminated to the education research and policymaker community throughout the country.


dsc_0048Policy Forum

The following day, IDRA briefed legislative staff in Austin on the research and implications for policy in a forum hosted by Senator José Rodríguez and held in collaboration with the Texas Center for Education Policy, University of Texas at Austin. Sen. Rodríguez stated, “What we heard from the research is confirmation that Texas is not doing right by our English language learners… Texas needs to do better at investing in education.” 

IDRA established the José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program in 2013 to honor the memory of IDRA founder, Dr. José Angel Cárdenas. The goal of the program is engage the nation’s most promising researchers in investigating school finance solutions that secure equity and excellence for all public school students. IDRA established the José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program in 2013 to honor the memory of IDRA founder, Dr. José Angel Cárdenas. The goal of the program is engage the nation’s most promising researchers in investigating school finance solutions that secure equity and excellence for all public school students.