Elementary Bilingual Early-Exit Transitional Program--Brownsville ISD

Best Practice Summary

English Language Learners

Brownsville Independent School District (Brownsville ISD)

Accountability Rating:
Academically Acceptable 2007–08 (Total Number of Elementary Campuses = 33; Number Exemplary = 4; Number Recognized = 28)

BPC Year of Recognition:
2008–09 (Broad Prize for Urban Education 2008)

BPC Evidence Type:
Practice With Quantitative Evidence

Purpose of Program:
To ensure English language learners (ELL) meet the exit criteria for Limited English Proficient (LEP) programs by the end of elementary school

Targeted Populations:
English Language Learners (Grades K–5)

Key Strategies/Approaches:

  • Developing administrative guidelines to provide districtwide leadership and support for elementary bilingual programs
  • Detailed resources and professional development for uniform program implementation across campuses
  • Campus-specific data analysis and monitoring of implementation

Implementation Highlights:

Supporting Evidence

Overview of Evidence:

ELL students exiting LEP programs in Grades 2−4 continued to be academically successful.[1][ 2] Specifically, one year after exiting LEP status, Brownsville ISD elementary ELL students performed well on reading and mathematics TAKS. In 2005−06, 92% of students passed reading TAKS one year after exiting LEP programs in Grades 2−4, compared to the state average[3]of 85% for similar students, and 93% passed mathematics, compared to the state averageof 87%. In 2006−07, 88% of students passed reading TAKS one year after exiting LEP programs, compared to the state average for similar students of 87%, and 92% passed mathematics, compared to the state average of 90%. In 2007−08, 93% passed reading, and 93% passed mathematics, compared to the state averages for similar students of 90% and 91%, respectively.

For those Brownsville ISD ELL students who were not exited from LEP programs prior to Grade 5, the percentage passing all TAKS tests in Grade 5 was consistently higher than the state average for similar students over the last three years. In 2005−06, 43% of Grade 5 ELLs participating in LEP programs passed all TAKS, compared to the state average of 32% for similar students. In 2006−07, 38% of Grade 5 ELLs participating in LEP programs passed all TAKS, compared to the state average of 36% for similar students. In 2007−08, the percentage of Brownsville ISD ELLs in Grade 5 passing all TAKS tests was 48%, compared to the state average of 44% for similar students.

Chart: TAKS Performance One Year After Exit from LEP Status. In 2005–06, 92% of Brownsville ISD M1 students passed reading TAKS, compared to the state average for similar students of 85%. In 2006–07, 88% of Brownsville ISD M1 students passed reading TAKS, compared to the state average for similar students of 87%. In 2007–08, 93% of Brownsville ISD M1 students passed reading TAKS, compared to the state average for similar students of 90%. In 2005–06, 93% of Brownsville ISD M1 students passed mathematics TAKS, compared to the state average for similar students of 87%. In 2006–07, 92% of Brownsville ISD M1 students passed mathematics TAKS, compared to the state average for similar students of 90%. In 2007–08, 93% of Brownsville ISD M1 students passed mathematics TAKS, compared to the state average for similar students of 91%.
Source: Texas Education Agency, TAKS campus assessment summaries
Note: Weighted averages reflect first administration test participation only in the grade levels of the practice. Averages do not reflect data from Grade 6 for those ELLs exiting LEP programs after Grade 5. 

Brownsville 2 chart
Source: Academic Excellence Indicator Systems (AEIS)



  • According to AEIS, 58% of Brownsville ISD elementary students are identified for LEP programs. Approximately 1,000 bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) teachers serve approximately 15,000 ELLs at the elementary level.
  • The district has been implementing an early-exit transitional model for bilingual education at the elementary level since 1989. According to information provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on bilingual/ESL program models, the early-exit transitional model is one of the most commonly used in Texas preK−5. The program provides native language instruction in the early grades to build literacy skills and content knowledge with a gradual shift to instruction in English as student proficiency levels increase. For example, in Brownsville ISD, guidelines for language of instruction for PreK ELLs recommend that 80% of instruction is in Spanish, with 20% in English. In kindergarten, 75% of instruction is in Spanish, and 25% is in English. First grade is 70/30 Spanish to English, and, in second grade, Spanish to English instruction is 40/60. By fifth grade, 20% of instruction is in Spanish, and 80% is in English. Oral language development and transitional support through sheltered English instruction are also key features of the model. Model guidelines require that transitions to English-only instruction occur not earlier than two years and not later than five years after the student enrolls in school.
  • Brownsville ISD Bilingual/ESL Department professional staff includes a director, two specialists, an ESL counselor, and six lead bilingual/ESL teachers who are assigned to clusters of feeder patterns of schools.

Demographics table. Grade levels served: ECE-12. District enrollment: 48,796. Ethnic distribution: African American 82, 0.2%. Hispanic 47,801, 98.0%. White 727, 1.5%. Asian/Pacific Islander 170, 0.3%. Economically disadvantaged 46,116, 94.5%. Limited English Proficient 20,685, 42.4%. At-Risk 33,506, 68.7%.


  • Training provided by the Bilingual/ESL Department for all elementary teachers and administrators
  • Training provided by the Bilingual/ESL Department for all bilingual/ESL teachers at each grade level
  • Training provided by the Bilingual/ESL Department for administrators and LPAC committee members


Structure and Organization

  • To support bilingual/ESL program administration, in the 2005−06 school year, Brownsville ISD staff developed a set of administrative guidelines for implementation of the early-exit transitional bilingual instructional model for elementary schools in the district. The guidelines were designed to support uniform implementation of the program model across the district and included a mission statement, goals, objectives, model description, and program features. The guidelines were approved by Brownsville ISD’s Board of Trustees in November 2005.
  • The department also developed and posted an annual bilingual/ESL instructional support plan that provided detailed information on ongoing and planned districtwide and campus-specific initiatives for bilingual/ESL education with articulated progress indicators. For example, the document detailed available professional development and related training objectives. The plan also detailed available resources, pilot programs, and other activities to improve ELL education. The document was incorporated into the district’s improvement plan as well as campus improvement plans and was used as the basis for monitoring implementation of bilingual/ESL initiatives districtwide.
  • In addition, the department provided information, data, and factsheets about the bilingual/ESL program for various district-level meetings, including those of area superintendents and curriculum and instruction staff. Staff reported that the department’s communication strategies helped to garner support for department goals and initiatives and to get information to campus principals. Staff also worked directly with campus principals and other administrators in addressing campus-specific ELL needs.
  • The Bilingual/ESL Department was directly and collaboratively involved in the planning and implementation of all major district curriculum initiatives, including the implementation of Reading First and the recently adopted CSCOPE mathematics and science curriculum. Department staff was involved in decision-making processes, vetting choices for integration with bilingual/ESL programming, and developing bilingual/ESL resources and training for campus administrators and teachers linked to these initiatives.
  • District Bilingual/ESL Department staff worked with and provided ongoing training for campus Language Proficiency Assessment Committees (LPAC). The co-chairs of the LPAC at each campus were typically a principal or assistant principal and an experienced bilingual/ESL teacher. District-level bilingual/ESL lead teachers worked directly with LPAC committee members at campuses in their assigned cluster. As required by state law, LPAC committee members included administrators, bilingual/ESL teachers, and a parent of an ELL.

Data and Monitoring

  • The district conducted extensive analysis of TAKS, TAKS LAT, and TELPAS assessment data and data reported through the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS) for bilingual/ESL student outcomes at the district, cluster, and campus level to provide customized reports for district and campus staff. The district also placed specific emphasis on oral language proficiency and provided campus reports on data from SELP and SSLP correlated with TELPAS results.In addition, the district tracked and provided data to campuses on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) performance requirements for ELLs. These requirements, or annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAO), address English language proficiency and the progress ELLs are making toward meeting state academic standards.
  • Based on an adapted Houston ISD reporting format, Brownsville ISD bilingual/ESL staff provided customized and detailed analysis of disaggregated data for campuses at the teacher and student level. To monitor for AYP compliance, the district reported specifically on students remaining at the beginning or intermediate English proficiency levels for more than two years.
  • The district developed a Special Programs folder that provided, in one place, detailed documentation on individual ELL students and campus interventions. Staff reported that this strategy assisted in bilingual/ESL program coordination. The folders were kept at the campus level and were part of students’ permanent record files.


  • Based on stakeholder and administrator feedback after adoption of the administrative guidelines, the Bilingual/ESL Department developed district-specific documents and detailed resources to guide campus-level implementation of the early-exit transitional model. These documents provided specific definitions and regulatory guidelines as well as detailed explanations of what bilingual/ESL instruction should look like at each grade level and in each subject area. This included explanation of the progression of the percentage of instruction that should be provided in students’ primary language (Spanish) or through English instruction by TELPAS proficiency level in each subject area. Other specific resources included:
    • recommended daily grade-level time allocations for subject area instruction in primary/secondary language;
    • grade-level curricular supports and resources aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the CSCOPE curriculum, and state-adopted materials;
    • recommended grade-level sample schedules; and
    • background research and materials on instructional components, pacing, and modifications for ELLs. 
  • The district developed a data-based process for campus requests for support to provide focus for campus visits by bilingual/ESL staff and resource requests. A menu-based form allowed campus staff to specify requests to the district for technical assistance, professional development, and resources and helped campuses identify need for support based on assessment data from the Stanford English Language Proficiency (SELP) test, Stanford Spanish Language Proficiency (SSLP) test, TELPAS, TAKS, and TAKS Linguistically Accommodated Testing (LAT).
  • In addition, the district offered a mini-grant program through which campuses could request additional district bilingual/ESL funds to support ELL programs. Requests had to be based on a needs assessment and aligned with a specific intervention plan. Grant expenditures were typically for resources, such as science kits, classroom libraries, technology, and software, or additional professional development not already provided by the district.
  • Access to administrative documents and a comprehensive set of resources for ELL program administration was made available through the department Web site (for details, see http://www.bisd.us/Bilingual_Education/).

Resources, Cost Components, and Sources of Funding:

This practice was implemented using Title III funds.

Literature Base:

Lessons Learned


  • Staff reported that due to the size of the district, the administrative guidelines were developed to send a clear message about the importance of fidelity of implementation of the bilingual program and to provide specific implementation guidance to principals, teachers, and bilingual specialists. The board-approved guidelines assisted in garnering buy-in from district and campus leaders and sent a clear message about district priorities in improving support for ELLs.

Contact Information


Brownsville Independent School District
1900 Price Rd.
Brownsville, TX 78521

(956) 548-8000


End Notes

[1]For details on exit criteria, see  http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=4098

 [2]Texas Education Code (TEC)§29.052 defines a “Student of limited English proficiency (LEP) as a student whose primary language is other than English and whose English language skills are such that the student has difficulty performing ordinary class work in English.” TEC further requires that districts with an enrollment of 20 or more students of limited English proficiency in any language classification in the same grade level offer a bilingual education or special language program as follows: (1) bilingual education in kindergarten through the elementary grades; (2) bilingual education, instruction in English as a second language, or other transitional language instruction approved by the agency in post-elementary grades through Grade 8; and (3) instruction in English as a second language in Grades 9 through 12. The terms “English language learner” (ELL) and bilingual/ESL student are used in this summary interchangeably to refer to students participating in elementary LEP programs. State data for ELLs is reported using the term LEP.

[3] State averages are weighted averages based on the grade level(s) of the practice.