Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Washington State K-12 Bilingual Ed Transition Success Rate Drops 24 Percent In ‘09-’10; Spending Reaches New High

by Matt Rosenberg January 19th, 2011

SUMMARY: According to a new report from Washington state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the number of students enrolled in the Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP) in grades K-12 in Washington public schools in the 2009-2010 school year grew by 2.2 percent from the prior year and state bilingual K-12 spending reached a new high, but the number who were able to pass the test to move into English-only classrooms dropped by 24 percent compared to the prior school year. Only 12 percent of more than 92,000 students classified as English Language Learners or ELL (primary language not English) made the transition to all-English instruction based on proficiency tests administered last year. Students in grades 9-12 had particularly low success rates on transition tests although the large majority of them were not new to the bilingual program. Overall, state education officials point to a lack of available certificated teachers who can provide instruction in non-English primary languages, of which Spanish is predominant. ELL students who had transitioned out by last year fared notably less well on state achievement tests than other students.

BACKGROUND: ELL students are defined as having a primary language other than English plus English language deficiencies which interfere with learning in standard classrooms. Most but not all are assigned to the main bilingual program, or TBIP. (Alternative scenarios include waiving participation in TBIP with parental approval, or where appropriate, special education classes). TBIP focuses on the ELL students most in need and is directed to “provide temporary support services until (they) can develop English language skills” and transition to standard classrooms by passing the Washington Language Proficiency Test (WLPT-II) which measures reading, writing, listening and speaking. ELL students can stay in the TBIP program until they transition out. There were 91,469 K-12 ELL student enrollments in the state last school year. (Returning students are enrolled along with new students; except for kindergartners, the majority were not new to the program.) Through TBIP the state funded special bilingual instruction for the 84,855 determined to be most in need.

KEY LINK: “Educating English Language Learners In Washington State, 2009-2010, Report to the Legislature,” Office Of The Superintendent Of Public Instruction (OSPI), Migrant and Bilingual Education division, 1/11.


  • TBIP K-12 expenditures in Washington State were $88.4 million, $75.2 million from state appropriations. That annual amount has grown from $4.5 million in the 1985-86 school year and reached a new high in 2009-2010. TBIP students were 8.3 percent of the state K-12 public school total students, up just 1 percent over the last six years. The state spending total on TBIP was 5.9 percent higher than the previous year, while total state and local funding for K-12 public education in Washington dropped 0.4 percent.
  • The number of total ELL students in grades K-12 in Washington State grew 2.2 percent in 2009-2010 over the previous year, but 24 percent fewer transitioned out than in the preceding year. Overall, 12 percent of ELL students receiving bilingual instruction in 2009-2010 tested out, as proficient enough in English to begin English-only classes. Eighty-eight percent did not.
  • More than half (54.9 percent) of ELL students last year were in grades K-3, but 15.5 percent, or more than 14,000, were in grades 9-12. Only three percent of 9th graders passed the test last year to transition to fully-English speaking classes, versus seven percent of 10th graders, six percent of 11th graders and six percent of 12th graders; by far the least successful transition rate for any age cohort in the state’s K-12 ELL population in 2009-2010. Yet most of the ELL high schoolers were not new to the bilingual program last year: just 22.3 percent of 9th graders, 13.6 percent of 10th graders, 14.4 percent of 11th graders, and 7.5 percent of 12th graders. It can take 1.7 to four years to transition out of bilingual education, depending on the student’s English-language proficiency level upon entering, according to the report.
  • Educating English Language Learners In Washington State, OSPI, 1/11

  • A problem identified in the report is that only 11 percent of ELLs received instruction in their primary languages last year in Washington State, although the state superintendent’s office maintains that based on field research, this approach is best for student progress. The report says there is a pronounced lack of available teachers certificated in the non-English primary languages of ELL students in Washington State. Although 203 different languages are spoken within the state’s K-12 ELL population, Spanish was the primary language of 67 percent of those students.
  • ELL students who had transitioned out and of TBIP and who took the Measurement of Student Progress standardized state achievement tests (for elementary schoolers) or the equivalent High School Proficiency Exam lagged the rest of the state student population. Compared to other students, the share of former ELLs meeting grade level performance standards on the state achievement tests in 2009-2010 was 15 percent lower in math, 10 percent lower in writing, 17 percent lower in reading and 25 percent lower in science.
  • One Response to “Washington State K-12 Bilingual Ed Transition Success Rate Drops 24 Percent In ‘09-’10; Spending Reaches New High”

    1. Josh Basara says:

      Hello…my name is Josh Basara and I work at Capella University. The number of ELL students has increased considerably over the last decade. The report and findings above highlight this growing population of students. To fill the need of skilled teachers in this area, Capella University recently included included an English Language Learning and Teaching specialization within its Master of Science in Education program. I invite you to find out more info about the program here: