English Learner Students' Readiness for Academic Success: The Predictive Potential of English Language Proficiency Assessment Scores in Arizona and Nevada


PUBLICATION DATE

October 2016

English Learner Students' Readiness for Academic Success: The Predictive Potential of English Language Proficiency Assessment Scores in Arizona and Nevada

Photo: Young male students

National conversations about how best to educate the growing population of English learner students have begun to focus on their transition from English language development programs to full-time mainstream, English-only classes. This new study offers insight on how prepared those students need to be to succeed in those classes. The study examined two cohorts of English learner students in Arizona and Nevada from 2009-10 to 2011-12—one cohort of third grade students and one of sixth grade students. 

In both cohorts, higher English language proficiency levels were associated with higher passing rates on English language arts and math content tests. The study found that younger English learner students did not need to attain the English language proficiency score to succeed on content tests; however, older English learner students needed to achieve beyond the English language proficiency threshold to succeed on those tests.

The study revealed:

  • In both cohorts, higher English language proficiency levels were associated with higher passing rates on subsequent English language arts and math content tests.
  • Grade 3 English learner students may succeed in mainstream, English-only classes without reaching English language proficiency: grade 3 English learner students did not have to reach the English proficiency threshold for reclassification to have a 50 percent or higher probability of passing the English language arts and math content tests in the two years following the English proficiency assessment.
  • Reaching the English language proficiency threshold was not adequate for grade 6 English learner students to succeed in mainstream, English-only classes: To have at least a 50 percent probability of passing the English language arts and math content tests in the two years following the English language proficiency assessment, grade 6 English learner students in Arizona and Nevada needed a proficiency score that exceeded the threshold for reclassification and placement in mainstream, English-only classes.

The study suggests that different supports and services may be needed for mainstream transitions of English learner students in higher grade levels as compared to those in lower grade levels. The study also points to the need to investigate differentiated supports by subject content areas.