[lg policy] Educational trajectories of English Language Learners examined

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 16 15:27:39 UTC 2012

Educational trajectories of English Language Learners examined

by Jennifer Wetzel <http://news.vanderbilt.edu/author/jennifer-wetzel/> |
Posted on Thursday, Mar. 15, 2012 — 8:00 AM
[image: Greetings in different languages on

Public school students who successfully complete English as a Second
Language or bilingual education programs within three years appear to fare
better in meeting basic math and reading proficiency standards than their
peers who remain enrolled in language acquisition courses for five years or

A new report <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/TexasELLs.pdf> from
Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College
<http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/>and the Migration
Policy Institute <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/> analyzes a unique
longitudinal dataset compiled by the state of Texas that tracks all
students – including the state’s large English Language Learner (ELL)
population – from first grade through college entry. The authors find that
“quick-exiter” ELLs among the cohort of students who attended Texas schools
for all 12 grades achieved the best results among all ELL groups in meeting
Texas basic math and reading proficiency standards.

In contrast, long-term ELLs – those in ELL programs for five or more years
– lagged significantly in every grade.
[image: Stella Flores] <http://news.vanderbilt.edu/files/FloresStellaM2.jpg>

Lead author Stella Flores (Steve Green/Vanderbilt University)

These and other findings can be found in *The Educational Trajectories of
English Language Learners in
*,* which used data obtained by Peabody’s Stella
assistant professor of public policy and higher education.

“How these students, many of whom are U.S. natives, fare is of importance
not just to them and their families but to the broader society in terms of
their ability to translate into a productive – and multilingual –
workforce,” said Flores, lead author of the study. “In particular,
expectations for ELL students should go beyond the basic outcome of
achieving English language proficiency and should include the opportunity
to participate in a college-preparatory curriculum that will pave the way
for a better academic and economic future.”

ELL students represent one in nine of the 49.5 million students enrolled in
U.S. public schools – a number that has risen dramatically, from 3.5
million during the 1998-99 school year to 5.3 million a decade later.
Texas, with 832,000 ELL students, is second only to California, which has
1.1 million students with limited English proficiency.

“The weaker academic performance evidenced by long-term ELLs raises
important questions on how to address their literacy and linguistic needs,”
said Michael Fix, senior vice president of the Migration Policy
Institute<http://www.migrationpolicy.org/>and co-author of the report.
“However, with much still unknown about the
reasons why students remain in ELL status for many years, it would not be
prudent to conclude that language acquisition instruction should be

Interestingly, the study found that Hispanic ELLs who opt out of ESL or
bilingual education programs in favor of English-only courses may be
particularly disadvantaged in terms of college enrollment.

“Parents may feel that they are helping their kids acquire English more
quickly or avoid stigmatization if they keep them out of ESL or bilingual
education classes, but in reality, our findings suggest that they should
consider whether their children might fare better academically if they
remained in language acquisition courses,” said Jeanne Batalova, policy
analyst at the Migration Policy Institute and co-author of the report.

Among the study’s other top findings:

   - Students who were ELLs at some point are referred to as “ever-ELLs” in
   this report. Black students who were ever-ELLs have higher academic test
   outcomes and are more likely to graduate from high school than their native
   English-speaking black peers. Asian and non-Hispanic white ever-ELLs who
   spent 12 years in Texas public schools (referred to in the report as the
   “on-time cohort”) were almost as likely to graduate as their non-ELL
   counterparts; while Hispanic ELLs slightly lagged their counterparts.

   - ELL students who worked while in school were more likely to go to
   college after graduation. While the factors explaining this are
   complicated, it may be that jobs offer opportunities for stronger English
   language development as well as accrued earnings for family and college
   expenses. However, the potential for interference with academic work is
   also very real, as demonstrated by the college enrollment lag for non-ELL
   students who work while in high school.

   - While most on-time cohort students achieved the basic proficiency
   level on both math and reading tests, much lower shares of ELL students
   reached the “commended performance” level.

   - Enrollment in dual-credit programs that let students gain both high
   school and college-level credits at the same time is a critical stepping
   stone for ELL students, serving as a stronger predictor of college
   enrollment than participation in AP classes or other factors.

   - Ever-ELLs in the on-time cohort were much more likely, regardless of
   racial or ethnic category, to be economically disadvantaged than their
   non-ELL counterparts. For example, 90 percent of Hispanic ever-ELLs were
   eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, compared to 65 percent
   of Hispanic non-ELLs.

View the full report. <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/TexasELLs.pdf>


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