The Policy Lab completes longitudinal study on the effectiveness of Providence Public School District’s Multilingual Learners programs

October 1, 2021

PROVIDENCE, RI — The Policy Lab at Brown University today released the results of an evaluation of the Providence Public School District (PPSD) Multilingual Learners (MLL) programs’ effectiveness over a three-year timespan, prior to the state takeover of the district. The evaluation analyzed administrative and outcome data of students who remained enrolled in the district and were either kindergarteners, third graders, sixth graders, or ninth graders during the 2016-17 school year.

This longitudinal study will serve as a baseline measure of PPSD’s MLL programs, against which current and future improvement metrics will be measured. The study revealed a mix of areas for improvement and potential for success within the PPSD MLL programs, including:

  • Among elementary students, the Two Way Dual Language and Bilingual programs yielded the most growth in English language acquisition and English Language Arts (ELA).
  • Secondary students demonstrated minimal gains in English language acquisition as well as poor scores on state ELA exams, regardless of the MLL program.
  • MLL students had lower absenteeism rates than PPSD students at large.
  • For the cohorts studied, MLL programs often did not serve their intended student populations. Students did not necessarily meet their program’s English language proficiency entrance criteria, and frequently did not complete exams that were necessary to exit programs.

“The team at PPSD has been committed to understanding how well their programs are working, and we're excited that our partnership will now shift to acting on many of the recommendations found in the report,” said David Yokum, Director of The Policy Lab.

The Policy Lab will continue its work with PPSD to collaboratively address these ongoing issues within the MLL programs, with a focus on:

  • Improving attendance among MLL students, particularly during exams.
  • Building an alternate socioeconomic status indicator.
  • Expanding the dual language instruction program and measuring its efficacy.
  • Better understanding the effect of teacher certification on student outcomes.

This evaluation is in compliance with a 2018 settlement between PPSD and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) after they identified 12 violations of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 specifically impacting MLL students.

The full evaluation report can be found here.

The Policy Lab is an applied research lab that brings together experts from government, universities, and community organizations to answer questions about how to enhance life in Rhode Island and beyond. To learn more about The Policy Lab, visit

How to cite this Reflection: Thang S., Huh E. & Wilson K. (2021, October 01). The Policy Lab completes longitudinal study on the effectiveness of Providence Public School District’s Multilingual Learners programs. The Policy Lab.

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