The Characteristics of Long-Term English Language Learner Students and Struggling Reclassified Fluent English Proficient Students in Nevada
Across the United States, and in the states served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) in particular, there is widespread concern about how to successfully educate the growing number of English language learner (ELL) students, especially those identified as long-term ELL students and those identified as reclassified fluent English proficient (RFEP) students who struggle to score at passing levels on state English language arts (ELA)/reading content tests (Horwitz et al., 2009; Olsen, 2010; Quality Counts, 2009).
This study, which focuses on ELL students in Nevada, is one of a series of three companion studies that seek to help Arizona, Nevada, and Utah identify the characteristics of long-term ELL students and Struggling RFEP students. For this study, we defined long-term English language learner students as students who, during the six school years of the study, never scored at or above the levels required on Nevada's English language proficiency (ELP) test to be reclassified as fluent English proficient. We compared these long-term ELL students to their ELL peers who did score at or above the levels required on Nevada's ELP test to be reclassified as fluent English proficient, whom we refer to as reclassified fluent English proficient (RFEP) students. Struggling RFEP students were defined as ELL students who met the stat's ELP requirements for RFEP but did not pass the state ELA or reading content test by the end of year 6 of the study. We compared these Struggling RFEP students to their RFEP peers who did pass the state ELA or reading content test, whom we refer to as Transitioned RFEP students.
The study examined student data from 2006/07–2011/12 to address three research questions:
- What proportion of ELL students fit the study's definition of long-term ELL students by the end of the six years? What proportion of ELL students fit the study's definition of Struggling RFEP students by the end of the six years?
- What are the characteristics of long-term ELL students? How are these characteristics different from those of RFEP students?
- What are the characteristics of Struggling RFEP students? How are these characteristics different from those of the RFEP students who passed their ELA content test at least once by the end of the six years?
The study followed three cohorts of ELL students in Nevada's two largest school districts, Clark County (CCSD) and Washoe County (WCSD): a grade K cohort, who started kindergarten in 2006/07; a grade 3 cohort, who started grade 3 in 2006/07; and a grade 6 cohort, who started grade 6 in 2006/07. By examining these three cohorts in Nevada over six years (2006/07–2011/12), this study found the following:
Across the K, grade 3, and grade 6 cohorts in both CCSD and WCSD,
- Between 50 and 83 percent of the ELL students scored at or above Nevada's required ELP level to meet RFEP criteria.
- Among RFEP students, between 48 and 88 percent passed their ELA content test at least once (thereby becoming Transitioned RFEP students).
- Among long-term ELL students, between 6 and 32 percent passed the ELA content test at least once.
- In general, the grade 6 cohort had the lowest percentage of RFEP students, Transitioned RFEP students, and long-term ELL students who passed the ELA content test as least once.
- In general, long-term ELL students, when compared to their more successful RFEP peers, had higher percentages of eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL), eligibility for individualized education program (IEP) services, and male students.
- In general across the student characteristics, Struggling RFEP students, when compared to their more successful Transitioned RFEP peers, had higher percentages of eligibility for FRL, eligibility for IEP services, and male students.
- In general, compared to their more successful RFEP and Transitioned RFEP peers, long-term ELL students and Struggling RFEP students had higher percentages of students with lower ELP levels during the first study year.