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IES Grant

Title: Reclassification of English Language Learners as Fully English Proficient
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Herman, Joan Awardee: University of California, Los Angeles
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years Award Amount: $391,671
Goal: Exploration Award Number: R305A090581

Purpose: The proposed research project examined the validity of existing English Language Learner (ELL) reclassification systems (the process by which ELL students are reclassified as fully English proficient and ready to function without special services). Current state and district reclassification criteria and procedures have been found to be inconsistent and lacking in an empirical base. The project examined demographic, programmatic, and reclassification factors that relate to subsequent ELL student academic success and thereby contribute to identifying optimal criteria for reclassification decisions.

Project Activities: The project drew on longitudinal student data in two states (State A and State B henceforth).  In State A, the project analyzed data from two cohorts of students to longitudinally monitor ELL students' achievement before and after reclassification and compared these trajectories to those of non-ELL students. The project also collected measures of district policies and practices concerning ELLs' reclassification through telephone interviews with district personnel. In State B, the project analyzed data from three graduation cohorts to examine school persistence in relation to student enrollment histories that may reflect differences in reclassification criteria.

Products: The products of this project are published reports identifying potential factors that may better predict ELL students' success after reclassification and thereby may be included in a more valid reclassification system.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study setting was two states that are geographically distal and serve different populations of ELL students.

Sample: The State A sample encompassed two cohorts. The study focused on students who were reclassified at 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, while using the entire statewide cohorts in the analysis. The sample in State B was three, statewide graduation cohorts, including elementary, middle and high school ELL students.

Intervention: In this exploratory study, the intervention involved the policies and practices used in reclassifying ELL students as fully proficient in English and withdrawing supportive services. Information on these policies and practices was collected as part of the study.

Research Designs and Methods: In State A, the project proceeded in multiple, iterative phases, each building on the prior one. The first phase of the study used the state's extant data to examine estimated ELL growth patterns after reclassification and compared them to those of non-ELL students.  In the second phase of the study, qualitative data were collected through semi-structured telephone interviews to gather information about district and school reclassification practices.   In the third phase of the study, variables from the interview data were used to examine the relationships between different reclassification criteria and subsequent academic growth. The study aimed to inform reclassification criteria that predict ELL students' success in mainstream classrooms.

In State B, the project examined students' persistence in schools as one of the consequences of reclassification in various ways. For example, data from student enrollment histories were extracted to explore the relationship between years of remaining in ELL status and dropping out of high school, controlling for student characteristics that are known to predict dropping out.

Despite differences in samples, outcomes, design and analytical methods, the underlying common theme of this project was to examine ELLs' reclassification under the same framework of consequence-based validity: how differences in reclassification standards relate to differences in consequences in later years; namely, academic growth in mainstream classrooms and persistence in school.

Control Conditions: Due to the nature of the research design, there was no control condition.

Key Measures: The key measures included scores from each state's end-of-year standardized assessments in reading and math; scores/levels on the state English language proficiency (ELP) tests; measures of district policies and practices concerning ELLs' reclassification derived from interviews with district personnel; and measures of ELL relevant enrollment histories drawn from longitudinal enrollment data.

Data Analytic Strategy: Growth modeling techniques were used to examine the subsequent academic success of reclassified ELLs in mainstream classrooms in State A. For State B, correlates of dropouts were examined using multilevel logistic regression in which students are nested within districts, among other analytic techniques.


Nongovernment report, issue brief, or practice guide

Kim, J. (2011). Relationships Among and Between ELL Status, Demographic Characteristics, Enrollment History, and School Persistence CRESST Report 810. Los Angeles: University of California, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).

Kim, J., and Herman, J.L. (2010). When to Exit ELL Students: Monitoring Success and Failure in Mainstream Classrooms After ELLs' Reclassification. CRESST Report 779. Los Angeles: University of California, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).

Kim, J., and Herman, J.L. (2012). Understanding Patterns and Precursors of ELL Success Subsequent to Reclassification. CRESST Report 818. Los Angeles: University of California, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).

** This project was submitted to and funded under Education Policy, Finance, and Systems in FY 2009.