DYK: Multilingual learner enrollment in K–12 schools increased by 28% since 2000, and there are now an estimated 4.9 million children in U.S. public schools learning the English language. One million of those students are in California – the state with the largest number of multilingual learners in the country. 

Multilingual learner students deserve high-quality instructional materials that offer integrated language supports in order to access the grade-level content they need to learn and grow. Many programs say they provide these supports, but as we’ve learned in our work over the past decade, it’s essential that districts have independent information verifying such claims. 

Working with California educators, EdReports set out to do just that– provide clear, comprehensive evidence about how well middle school mathematics programs meet the needs of multilingual learners.   

The California multilingual learner pilot was a single project which illuminated important information about instructional materials in use across the state. However, the ripple effects extend beyond the reports produced. The pilot offered learnings and best practices that continue to impact EdReports commitment to ensuring that teachers have access to resources that support the full community of students in their classrooms.

3 Lessons Learned:

  1. There are quality programs that support multilingual learners available, but there’s still more work to do. 

Not only did the pilot findings show that the participating publishers are making strong strides toward providing comprehensive supports for multilingual learners, the publishers also expressed an openness to feedback and a desire to understand how their programs could be improved. The more information districts and educators have about existing materials, the more this kind of improvement can be demanded. Lisa Fik, an educator reviewer who participated in the pilot, said, “We’re hoping to push curriculum producers to take a better look at their materials so that they’re thinking about the needs of every student.” 

Even with only two reviews, pilot participants believe this can be an important start for states and districts to be aware of what is possible, and the high bar they should hold for the materials they purchase. EdReports’ Margaret Overbagh-Feld said, “We’ve seen now that materials with these kinds of supports are available. This can be done. We must continue to demand this level of quality for multilingual learners and to push the field in the direction we know is best for our students.”

  1. Participating organizations and educators deepened their knowledge and have continued to apply their learnings to expand supports for multilingual learners. 

Educators conducting the reviews already had extensive backgrounds in mathematics and years working with multilingual learners. However, many cited just how much more they learned in the process. Educator reviewer Lisa Fik said, “From this experience with the pilot team, my understanding has truly broadened and deepened when it comes to serving multilingual learners. Through the review process I participated in deep, rich, analytical conversations with other math teachers and English learner specialists, and I saw instructional materials in a whole new light. It was invaluable learning I could bring with me.”

The learnings did not stop with participating educator reviewers. EdReports learned a tremendous amount throughout the pilot that we are applying to our current efforts around supporting multilingual learners and ensuring access to grade-level content. Our efforts in the California multilingual learner pilot helped us initiate a deeper dive into our standard review tools and consider how we can bring additional evidence and criteria into our process in a way that gives crucial information to educators about the supports materials provide for multilingual learners. 

We also expanded into additional pilots, have made plans to invest in multilingual learner review teams, and continue on a path to better incorporate MLL criteria as we revise our review tools. The aim is to ensure that multilingual learner supports are not only identified but that the needs of multilingual learners are considered as integral when instructional materials are designed and that these supports work in tandem with all the other components each and every student needs to learn and grow. 

  1. The multilingual learners review tool and evidence guide that were developed can be used (and are being used) when districts select instructional materials. 

The review tool and evidence guide used for the pilot are accessible and free for any district to use as part of their selection process. San Bernardino City Unified School District is an example of a school system that has incorporated the tools into their K–12 mathematics adoption process. “I was really proud to be a part of this project because beyond the reviews, we’re offering criteria and a rubric that other districts can use to look at materials and I think that’s huge,” said Fik. “We’re providing a lens that can help ensure that each and every student is considered when we’re looking at materials.”

Multilingual Learner Lead Margaret Overbagh-Feld also reflected on the impact of the project and reviews within the state: “California has one of the highest percentages of multilingual learners in the country. If our reviews and our resources can be used in district adoptions, then we’ll be showing just how much support is possible for multilingual learners within materials. I think districts can be attuned to multilingual learners’ needs and make sure it’s part of a local priority in their process and know they can count on finding materials to speak to those needs. This could go a long way for math education for multilingual learners in a state where they really need it.”

While participants are proud of what they learned and the initial impact of the pilot, no one is resting on their laurels. Educators understand that this contribution to the field matters, but there is still more work to do. 

Guillermo Lopez, a pilot participant said: “As a math educator for 15 years, I understand we have a responsibility to look at curriculum and identify whether the materials really meet our students’ needs. This project offered an avenue to educators to ensure that multilingual learners are seen, are engaged in dialogue, and that teachers have access to tools and content to support the full community of students in our classrooms. We are only at the beginning, but it’s an important foundational step.”