Translating Opportunity: Improving Postsecondary Pathways for Multilingual Learners of English
Multilingual Learners of English (MLEs) play an important role in U.S. society but are often marginalized, misunderstood, and underserved in the postsecondary system. This report increases understanding of the challenges and opportunities for postsecondary pathways for MLEs. It offers recommendations that can help educators, institutional leaders, policymakers, service providers, advocates, researchers, and funders better serve this diverse population with effective and equitable policies, programs, and structures.
Using data from interviews, English as a Second Language (ESL) course maps analysis, a literature review, and a 50-state policy scan, WestEd and Student-Ready Strategies examined the characteristics of the MLE population; the policies, structures, and practices that impact MLEs; and the supports that MLEs, faculty, and staff need.
The report finds that it is possible to establish pathways and practices that provide Multilingual Learners of English (1) access to postsecondary opportunities, (2) effective learning opportunities, and (3) positive and empowering experiences that result in increased certificate and degree completion. The findings emphasize the importance of creating pathways across K-12, Adult Education, and community colleges that are well-aligned, easy to navigate, and help learners achieve their goals quickly without unnecessary barriers. The report also notes the need to better understand the MLE experience from the learner’s entry point into the postsecondary space through to the completion of their educational goals.
- ESL programs provide support and instruction essential for MLEs to achieve their postsecondary education goals; at the same time, there is great room for improvement in these programs through redesign and reform rather than elimination.
- The lack of consistent definitions and data significantly hinders reform efforts.
- There is enough evidence to support certain improvements. This includes gathering data and evidence to identify and address barriers and develop effective practices for ESL course sequence length, placement practices, holistic supports, and the alignment of educational pathways through intentional partnerships.
Read the Executive Summary
Read the WestEd Equity in Focus blog post Five Actions State and Postsecondary System Leaders Can Take to Increase Multilingual Learner Student Success to get actionable recommendations for how state and system leaders can improve outcomes for MLE students.
Explore the WestEd Insights and Impact blog post Postsecondary Pathways for Multilingual Learners of English: A Community College President’s Perspective for a Q&A between WestEd’s Amy Getz and the Chancellor of Austin Community College Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart about how the report’s findings intersect with the experiences and perspectives of a community college president.
Learn 5 Strategies for Better Supporting Multilingual Learners that help English language learners develop a sense of belonging that builds on their strengths to promote success.
Listen to students sharing their perspectives on how institutions can better meet the needs of MLE students in a blog post, Lessons From Multilingual Learners to Improve Student Success, and the following video.
Product InformationCopyright: 2023
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