Legislative Priorities

Supporting the Growth and Success of Des Moines’ Students

The 2016 Legislative Priorities of Des Moines Public Schools.

The 2016 Legislative Priorities of Des Moines Public Schools.

As the 2016 session of the Iowa General Assembly gets underway, Des Moines Public Schools continues to advocate for public policies to support the district’s diverse student body, from expanding the support for English Language Learners (the fastest growing student body at DMPS) to making better use of existing funding for at-risk students to expanding our successful preschool programs.

The following legislative priorities for 2016 were adopted by the Des Moines School Board at its meeting on January 5, 2016:

  • Change the At-Risk and Drop-Out Prevention funding to a needs-driven formula.
  • ELL weighted-funding from 5 years to 7 years, with additional weighting for poverty status.
  • Increase funding for four-year-old preschool for students in need.
  • Create an option for DMPS to retain AEA flow-through dollars from which the district does not benefit.

ELL EDUCATION: Supporting the Education of Des Moines’ Fastest-Growing Student Population

The fastest growing group of students in Des Moines is English Language Learners. In fact, today Des Moines Public Schools educates more than 6,500 ELL students this year – nearly 20% of our total enrollment – a number that has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. Students at DMPS come from 88 different nations, speaking up to 100 different languages and dialects.

In 2013, the Iowa General Assembly took a step forward in meeting the needs of Iowa’s growing ELL student population by extending the time students could receive weighted funding from 4 to 5 years. At that time, a statewide task force was also established to study and recommend how Iowa can better serve this growing number of students.

DMPS, along with school districts across Iowa, would benefit in our work to help ELL students succeed by implementing various task force recommendations, including:

Increase weighted ELL funding from .22 to .39, phasing it in over a three-year period.

What could this mean for DMPS?

  • Lower Student-Teacher Ratio: ELL enrollment at DMPS has increased by an average of nearly 300 students per year over the past 10 years, a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Expand Intensive Language Centers: intensive language programs are particularly important to support immigrant and refugee students who have little or no literacy in their home language.

Extend eligibility for ELL state weighting from five to seven years reflecting the research-based timeline sufficient to move students to proficiency.

What could this mean for DMPS?

  • Support the Time to Learn: best practices indicate that it can take up to 7 years for students to learn a language and become acclimated to the culture and education of their new home. This change would support those students for whom there is a demonstrated need for additional time to become proficient.

Allow additional flexibility of funding and blended funding based on the diversity of needs that face students and school districts.

What could this mean for DMPS?

  • Update Technology: Increase access to technology-based language learning tools to further the success of ELL students.
  • Develop Out-of-School Programs: Learning to speak English is not confined to the school day. Allowing ELL funds for after school or weekend programming can create more opportunities for learning by students and their families.