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IES Grant

Title: Exploring the Experiences and Outcomes of English Learners in Community College
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Edgecombe, Nicole Awardee: Teachers College, Columbia University
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 Years (07/01/2019 - 06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,400,000
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A190495

Co-Principal Investigator: Bunch, George

Purpose: This study will explore how community college institutional policies and practices influence outcomes of postsecondary English learner (EL) students. EL students are a large and growing segment of the postsecondary student population, yet research on their experiences is sparse, especially at the community college level. Institutions struggle with how to identify this population or choose the policies and practices that might support them. The current study will focus on the institution- and program-level malleable factors, such as enrollment policies or student support services, that may influence EL students' outcomes. Such work will help inform theories that may lead to the development of interventions for community college EL students.

Project Activities: This mixed-methods study will combine quantitative analysis of student academic records; field studies with faculty, administrators, and students; and a survey of current community college EL students. This work will help researchers identify and characterize ELs at community colleges and their academic outcomes, including credit accrual, persistence, graduation, and transfer. The researchers will explore whether there is a relationship between particular institutional policies and practices and ELs' postsecondary enrollment and advancement while attending to differences in EL status, such as whether they were enrolled in the U.S. K-12 education system or were reclassified as “fluent” in the K-12 system. The study will also explore how underlying assumptions about ELs, language development, and academic potential and progress may influence institutional policies and practices.

Products: Products for this project include a revised theory of the relationship among institution- and program-level policies and practices and the education outcomes of community college EL students. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in Chicago.

Sample: The sample will include approximately 210,000 students who enrolled from 2010 to 2017 for the primary quantitative work with an additional 1,140 currently enrolled students for field and survey work, and approximately 60 faculty members and 20 administrators for field work.

Malleable Factors: In community colleges, the EL population includes students who were classified as ELs upon completing a U.S. high school, those who had been classified as ELs in U.S. K-12 settings and reclassified as fluent English speakers but may still face challenges at the college level, immigrants and refugees who have not attended U.S. K-12 schools, and international students from non-English-speaking countries. These ELs will vary by age, level of education, home language, and familiarity with the U.S. education system. When these students access community colleges, they may enroll in “pre-collegiate” courses (non-credit bearing courses such as ESL and developmental courses) or college-level programs. These courses and programs vary in the system and institutional policies and practices that govern course and program enrollment, structure (such as number and sequence of courses), content (such as curricular and pedagogical guidelines), and supplemental academic and other support services.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use a mixed-methods design with three studies. First, the researchers will conduct quantitative analyses with deidentified administrative data to examine the characteristics and outcomes of ELs in comparison to former ELs and non-EL peers as well as to explore the relationship between certain institutional policies and practices and their outcomes. Concurrently, they will conduct fieldwork at four community colleges to explore the ways in which the policies and practices associated with pre-collegiate and college-level courses and programs may affect the academic outcomes of ELs. Lastly, they will develop and administer an online survey to gather information from community college students on their personal and academic backgrounds, academic goals, college experiences, and current life circumstances.

Control Condition: There is no control condition given the nature of this research. However, the researchers will compare outcomes for various subgroups.

Key Measures: The key academic outcomes include matriculation and persistence rates, credit accrual, degree and certificate attainment rates, and 4-year college transfer rates.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will conduct descriptive analysis of the administrative and survey data and will use multiple regression models to examine the relationship between the academic outcomes of ELs and the malleable factors. They will code the qualitative fieldwork data using a two-cycle coding process to detect themes, and they will run correlations on the survey data to examine relationships between variables.