Grant

Closing the Achievement Gap for Long-Term and Late-Arriving English Learners

How can instructional models and English reclassification policies close the achievement gap for adolescent English learner (EL) students?

How can instructional models and English reclassification policies close the achievement gap for adolescent English learner (EL) students?Students who come from homes where a language other than English is spoken and are classified by schools as English learners (ELs) typically do not do as well in school as non ELs. One strategy for supporting ELs is to reclassify them when they have the English skills to join mainstream classrooms. Yet we know little about whether reclassification helps ELs succeed academically and at what stage of their language development it is best to reclassify. This study focuses on long-term ELs, who have remained classified for six years or more, and late-arriving English learners, who arrive in middle school, in the Los Angeles and San Diego Unified School Districts. How are long-term and late-arriving English learner students assigned to courses for their specific levels of literacy, and how are they reclassified? What aspects of the academic context affect EL outcomes? How do school leaders, staff and teachers support ELs in these courses? The team will use a longitudinal mixed-methods approach to examine these questions. The team will test whether course assignments, programs, and peer composition influence academic outcomes across different schools. They will analyze district policy documents and conduct interviews with central office administrators, school leaders, counselors, and teachers from 10 schools in the two districts. These interviews will shed light on how districts choose test score thresholds for reclassification, how central office administrators support and/or monitor fidelity of implementation in schools, and why course assignments at the school level might vary from the district plan (and why reclassification criteria might not be followed).