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Bilingual Education & English as a New Language

Multilingual Learner and English Language Learner Graduation Rate Improvement and Dropout Prevention Planning Tool

Multilingual Learner and English Language Learner Graduation Rate and Dropout Prevention Planning Tool Complete PDF

Links to Activity Templates, Exercises, and Resources (links are also found within the document)


The Multilingual Learner/English Language Learner Graduation Rate and Dropout Prevention Planning Tool provides research-informed effective practices and strategies, protocols, and templates for use by districts and schools as they dive into ML and ELL data. It is designed to jump start your district’s or school’s study, reflection and planning to improve policies, programs, and instructional practices geared toward improvement in ML and ELL graduation rates. In addition, the planning tool includes embedded links to helpful resources, such as articles, research, and effective practices related to graduation and dropout prevention. This planning tool supports implementation of the NYS Blueprint for ML and ELL Success and NYSED Commissioner’s Regulations Part 154, but it is not a comprehensive guidance tool; it is intended to be used to facilitate conversations and planning in districts and schools.

To commence this work, we need to take an in-depth look at what we are doing programmatically and instructionally for Current ELLs.  To understand our diverse ML and ELL population, we can apply the following questions to gain a better understanding of the root causes affecting graduation outcomes:

  • How are students performing in English Language proficiency development and academics?
  • Why are our students dropping out (e.g., social-emotional needs, chronic absenteeism)?
  • What challenges are our district and/or school facing in terms of dropout rates for MLs and ELLs?
  • What challenges are our district and/or school facing in terms of graduation rates for MLs and ELLs?
  • What are some common reasons why our students do not graduate on time?

We can apply an inquiry lens to reflect on the district/school practices, processes and structures to identify and address predictors/antecedents of MLs and ELLs at risk of dropping out and/or not graduating on time.

  • Is there an early warning system in place?
  • What supports and programs exist to assist MLs and ELLs once they are identified as off track to graduation and at risk of dropping out?
  • How is our district engaging parents or persons in parental relation of MLs and ELLs?
  • How is support from Community Based Organizations being leveraged to address the needs of ML and ELL students off track to graduation or at risk of dropping out?
  • What types of additional opportunities are available to increase ML and ELL graduation rates (e.g., Career and Technical Education programs, extended day learning programs, blended learning opportunities, flexible scheduling)?

This planning tool is designed to help districts and schools explore and answer these critical questions and as leaders examine and address practices, programs and policies that will lead to increased graduation rates and decreased dropout levels among their ML and ELL populations.

How to Use This Planning Tool

Each chapter of the Planning Tool introduces a key component of a system that influences MLand ELL opportunities toward successful graduation, namely Demographic Data, Early Warning System, ML and ELL High School Guidance, Family Engagement and Diverse ML and ELL Supports. The chapter includes useful techniques for data analysis intended to help stakeholders understand individual MLs’ and ELLs’ progress towards graduation. Districts and schools can then use this analysis to create a set of appropriate practices, programs and policies to address MLs’ and ELLs’ needs in an informed fashion.

Key Components

  • Demographic and Performance Data summarizes who MLs and ELLs are, how they are performing, and what experiences and opportunities are afforded to them. Key Questions and Implications exercises are included in this section along with related charts. Broad questions such as “What are three things you notice about this data?” are meant to be used as guides for your district-level data inquiry. They will work alongside your completed Data Activities to help you determine the trends and patterns your district can glean from the ML and ELL data.
  • Early Warning System identifies the core components of a system to proactively monitor and support MLs and ELLs and describes indicators that, in combination with general, research-based indicators can help districts craft their own Early Warning System to monitor the progress of the MLs and ELLs they are educating. Districts should use this system to identify MLs and ELLs at risk of dropping out and implement appropriate interventions.
  • ML and ELL High School Guidance identify the core components of strong, effective guidance tools for MLs and ELLs, such as information about the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) and pathways to graduation. This chapter also includes examples and other resources to assist districts in beginning to craft their own guidelines for MLs and ELLs.
  • Family Engagement  includes an exercise designed to build awareness of the three core components of family engagement programs for MLs and ELLs, inviting districts/schools to use a Planning Template designed to annually organize and chart all the components in the district’s family engagement plan.
  • Diverse ML and ELL Supports reflects the reality that MLs and ELLs comprise a heterogeneous group with diverse needs and provides guidance and examples that allow districts to think of ways to reduce the dropout rate among specific subgroups at the secondary level, including Newcomers, Students with Interrupted/Inconsistent Formal Education (SIFE), and Long-Term ELLs, the three most vulnerable subgroups.

Each chapter begins with an introduction to the main topic followed by practical templates and exercises to be used by districts/schools in accordance with their specific circumstances. For example, for the Demographic Data component, nearly every state-level chart is presented side-by-side with an attached template for districts to enter their own data. As such, the potential uses for the planning tool are numerous. It may help districts identify and understand the kind of data they should be analyzing, help provide support to individual schools to better understand statewide outcomes and compare them to their respective data to discern effective practices, help districts or schools gain access to valuable resources, and it may help districts complete their CEEP Section I. Above all else, this document should be viewed as a hands-on, interactive tool to assist districts in preventing MLs and ELLs from dropping out and to improve their graduation rates. This tool should be used not only by district level administrators but also by principals, assistant principals and even teachers to discern root causes and potential interventions for any group of MLs and ELLs for which they are responsible.

One example of how a district might use this tool involves programming. For instance, if a district has an influx of newly arriving immigrant adolescents to the U.S. district leaders might consider the creation of a newcomer program.  If a majority of these MLs and ELLs have interrupted/inconsistent formal education, the district should use the Multilingual Literacy SIFE Screener designed to assess SIFE literacy and consider implementing the Bridges to Academic Success Program. These students may have in common that they come from traumatic situations, which would necessitate a program focusing on social emotional learning. If attendance data reveals that secondary MLs and ELLs are often late to school, the root cause may be working long hours after school, in which case districts should consider the creation of a Twilight Program[1], extending school hours or implementing Saturday School programs.

Instructional practices should also be considered as part of student programming. An example of this is a case in which data analysis reveals many Long-Term ELLs in a district. These MLs and ELLs are usually verbally fluent in English but have less well-developed literacy skills in both their primary language and in English. These students might be co-taught by a literacy specialist and an ML and ELL specialist who can create an after-school program focusing on literacy and academic (disciplinary) language development.    

Updated 1/4/2021