The Achievement Progress of English Learner Students in the West Region
With states increasingly committed to better understanding and supporting the academic progress of their English learner (EL) students, a new set of REL West studies offers insights into how these students are progressing in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.
Although the research examined students receiving widely different academic supports in a range of settings, the findings were strikingly similar. Consistently, older EL students (those in middle and high school), EL students eligible for special education services, and EL students at lower English language proficiency levels were less successful than their peers.
The reports, The Achievement Progress of English Learner Students, examined the achievement of EL students from 2006-07 through 2011-12 in the three states, looking specifically at students’ progress in English fluency and in mastering core academic content in English language arts and math. In all three states, the findings showed:
- English learner students in lower grades did better than students in higher grades on subject matter tests.
- English learner students who were eligible for special education services generally had the lowest passing rates on all tests.
- English learner students who started the study at lower English language proficiency (ELP) levels generally had lower passing rates on all tests than students at the higher ELP levels.
- English learner students who were eligible for the school lunch program scored lower on all tests than their peers who were not eligible.
- Male English learner students had lower passing rates than their female peers on the English language proficiency and English language arts tests, but scored about the same—mostly slightly higher and sometimes slightly lower—on the math test.
As EL populations grow, there is impetus at both the state and federal level to better understand and serve these students. While data in these reports are not from most recent years and some instructional and assessment approaches have shifted in each state, the consistency of the findings across such diverse contexts may offer some insights about EL student subgroups that need additional attention.