Methodology Used for This Study
IDRA had one primary research question: What contributed to the success of a bilingual education classroom as evidenced by limited-English-proficient (LEP) student academic achievement?

“Success” was operationally defined as evidence of academic achievement (compared to district and/or state standards) for LEP students in bilingual education. Additional indicators and research questions that guided the IDRA study included the following.

School Indicators
What are the school indicators including retention rate, dropout rate, enrollment rate in gifted and talented programs and in advanced placement programs, enrollment in special education and remedial programs, test exemption rates, and program exiting standards (by LEP and non-LEP percentages)?

Student Outcome Indicators

  • What are the student outcomes for oral and writtten language proficiency (by LEP and non-LEP percentages)?
  • What are the student outcomes for content area mastery in English and the native language (by LEP and non-LEP percentages)?

School Level Indicators

  • How evident is leadership at the school level, and what are the characteristics?
  • How evident are the vision and goals at the school level, and what are the characteristics?
    What are the characteristics of the school’s climate?
  • What linkages exist between central office and school level staff. How are they characterized?
  • How is the school organized?
  • What are the demographic characteristics of professional staff, and what opportunities for professional development are provided?
  • What is the type, level and quality of parent involvement in the school and the bilingual education program?
  • How do staff hold themselves accountable for student success, and how are students assessed?
  • How are the staff selected and recognized?
  • What is the type, level and quality of community involvement in the school and the bilingual education program?

Classroom Level: Programmatic and Instructional Practices

  • What are the characteristics of the bilingual education program model?
  • What are the characteristics of the classroom climate?
  • What are the teacher expectations regarding student success?
  • How is the program articulated across grade levels?

IDRA ensured that programs selected for site visits reflected the diversity of U.S. schools and included elementary and secondary schools, different language groups, LEP concentrations, and Title I targeted assistance and schoolwide programs as well as Title VII grantees (current and former).

The 10 schools with promising or exemplary practices in bilingual education were located in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C.

In addition to the review of quantitative student and school outcome data, school demographic data, surveys of principals, teachers and administrators, and structured formal classroom observations were other sources of quantitative data. Qualitative data included structured interviews with the school principals and the administrators and focus group interviews with teachers, parents and students (whenever possible). Additional qualitative data were elicited from school profiles.

A framework was provided for describing each site visit thus providing a context and background for the visit. All of these data were gathered, analyzed and synthesized. Results were then triangulated to provide a rich and accurate picture of each program. Patterns and trends across programs were also identified, providing the empirical basis for he resulting criteria.

This research study was not an evaluation of bilingual education programs, that is, IDRA did not evaluate programs using a set of characteristics and criteria already established. Instead, IDRA developed the criteria by observing and learning from programs that had evidence of achievement for all of its students. These criteria can now be used by practitioners and researchers to assess programs and recognize areas that are strong and others that may need improvement.