The Wenatchee School board evaluated student progress made in Wenatchee School District’s (WSD) bilingual programs, highlighting state expectations for English-learning students.

Approximately 1,700 students are enrolled in the bilingual program at WSD.

WSD Director of State and Federal Programs Jeremy Wheatley shared that there are over 23 languages spoken within the student populace, with Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Punjabi being the top five languages.

Wheatley shared that the state was hoping for English Second Language (ESL) students to reach English proficiency with non-ESL peers within six years.

English proficiency is tracked through a program known as the WIDA assessment, tracking six levels of proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Over 1,620 students were assessed during the previous school year, showing 255 students starting at level 1, 340 students in level 2, 582 in level 3, 131 in level 4, and nine students at level 5 or higher.

The state requires students to receive a composite score of 4.7 in order to exit the program. Wheatley said that standard doesn't match the proficiency standard, which is at a four.

"Had the proficiency score been a four, we would have seen many more exit," Wheatley said. "But that's just something that's in flux."

25 students were able to exit the program last year. 

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Wheatley said that although they are seeing progress within the program, they are concerned that the current rate does not meet the state’s expectations, stating that 52% of students in the program ‘stagnated’ in their progress.

“The state called and said ‘Hey Wenatchee, why aren’t you exiting more students?’ Upon which I responded, ‘well according to the numbers, nobody in the state exited that many students.’”

Wheatley said that this was due in part to how new WIDA is as a program.

Wheatley said they are also monitoring Alaskan Native and Native-American students to ensure academic success and assess whether language could be a barrier.

Afterwards, he shared what progress was made to bridge the graduation rate gap between ESL and non-ESL students.

According to board packet materials, graduation rates between English-learning students and non English-learning students increased in the last five school years, with a 30% jump between projected graduation rate and the actual graduation rate.

In 2018-19, the anticipated graduation rate for non English-learning 9th graders was at 80.3% and 54.9% for English-learning 9th-graders. In 2021-22, rates for non English-learning seniors rose to 87.4%, and 78.5% for English-learning seniors.

Board President Maria Iniguez asked if they could get a more detailed look into the dataset Wheatley provided, sharing that she earned her Master’s degree in standardized testing and understands how test scores can be inflated if not observed through a cohort group.

“Kudos to the district if our numbers really did increase by 30%, but I think we really need to take a really deep dive into those numbers,” Iniguez said.

Wheatley said he believes this dataset came from a cohort group, but would need to check to make sure.

Board member Laura Jaecks asked if they could also look into dropout rates for the district.

Board member Martin Barron said that after the COVID-19 pandemic, English-learning students did not recover from learning losses compared to their non English-learning cohorts.

“It does look like we had a much bigger blow in one population from COVID-19 than the other,” Barron said.

Assistant Director of K-5 for Mission View Elementary Heidi Busk said they have been utilizing GLAD strategies for their bilingual program and that they hired two new multilingual trainers.

In the near future, Wheatley said they are hoping to revise and gain board approval for their Multilingual Learner plan before the upcoming school year, and add cultural competency with the district’s equity training.

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