Panel: English Learner Students’ Course Taking and Academic Success

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
8212 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Delia Pompa, Migration Policy Institute
Discussants:  Dylan Conger, George Washington University

A Quantitative Analysis of Correlates of English Learner Success in California
Julian Betts1, Karen Volz Bachofer1, Joseph Hayes2, Laura Hill2, Andrew Lee2 and Andrew Zau1, (1)University of California, San Diego, (2)Public Policy Institute of California

Course Placement Policies and Practices for Long Term and Late Arriving English Learners: Findings from Two Large Metropolitan School Districts
Megan Hopkins, University of California, San Diego and Magaly Lavadenz, Loyola Marymount University

Research has long documented that English Learner (EL) students perform well below their English-fluent peers. For example, among 8th grade students taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017, ELs’ average math scaled score was 246 (below Basic cut point of 262), compared with the 285 of non-ELs (near the Proficient cut point of 299).

EL students are K-12 students who speak a language other than English at home and do not have sufficient English language proficiency to succeed in their classes without additional support.  While designated as ELs, these students should have English Language Development (ELD) instruction to increase their English proficiency.  EL students should also receive core subject instruction, but ELD instruction may mean they have less of it. 

Being assigned to the proper ELD courses should speed the transition into English fluency, and access to core instruction should increase academic success. This panel will present four papers on secondary EL students’ course taking and their outcomes.  Senior administrators in the districts where the authors have worked have emphasized the need to strengthen supports for secondary EL students so they attain fluency while also graduating. The papers use a diversity of data sources and research methods to illuminate connections between the courses EL students take and their academic successes and challenges. 

Two papers focus on the ELD courses taken by ELs designed to increase their English proficiency.  The first examines whether being properly assigned (according to district policy) to these ELD courses is associated with better academic outcomes. The second examines how and why EL students’ ELD course placement varies across districts and schools.  The third and fourth papers focus on access to core academic content for EL students and academic success.  The third examines access to the full mainstream academic curriculum, including access to higher performing non-EL peers.  The fourth examines this question at the national level and over time.

The papers employ a variety of methods and sources; two quantitative, one qualitative, and one mixed-methods.  Two papers rely exclusively on student-level data; one uses administrative data from California’s two largest school districts (Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified) to examine academic outcomes. The other uses national student-level data (Educational Longitudinal Study (2002) and the High School Longitudinal Study (2009) to examine ELs’ college aspirations while controlling for access to academic content across time and states.  The qualitative paper examines how and why ELD placement varies across schools and districts, relying on interviews with district staff and teachers and administrators across 17 schools in two districts.  The mixed-methods paper uses cross-sectional administrative data and interviews across 2 school districts to understand course-taking and credit-earning patterns and high school graduation and 4-year college eligibility rates for ELs and non-EL peers. 

Taken together, these papers will provide rich analyses for understanding the effectiveness of course placements (both in ELD courses and core academic content) in EL student success.  Findings from the panel will have implications for school districts across the country that are serving secondary EL students.

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