High School Graduation Rates Across English Learner Student Subgroups in Arizona
Policymakers and educators working to close the achievement gap between English learner students and their non-English learner peers look at high school graduation as a key student outcome. However, few studies differentiate among English learner students at different stages of the learning process. A new report from REL West's English Learner Alliance looks beyond the simple category of English learner students to examine five English learner student groups and provides empirical evidence suggesting targeted supports for this diverse group of students.
Using a cohort of grade 9 students from Arizona, the study examined four-year high school graduation rates among long-term English learner students, new English learner students, recently proficient former English learner students, long-term proficient former English learner students, and never-English learner students. The study also explored the extent to which certain student demographic characteristics and previous academic achievement explain variations in graduation rates across these five English learner student groups. The study found that:
- Never-English learner students had the highest four-year graduation rate (85 percent), followed by long-term proficient former English learner students (81 percent), recently proficient former English learner students (67 percent), and new English learner students (52 percent). Long-term English learner students had the lowest observed graduation rate (49 percent).
- Student demographic characteristics such as gender, race/ethnicity, and eligibility for the federal school lunch program did not explain much of the variation in graduation rates across the English learner student groups.
- Academic achievement prior to high school explained most of the differences in graduation rates across the English learner student groups and may have been a key factor driving graduation outcomes.
- The earlier that English learner students achieved English proficiency, the higher their graduation rate.
- Long-term English learner students and new English learner students had the most difficulty graduating within four years of entering grade 9.