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Time to proficiency for Hispanic English learner students in Texas

This study examined the time it took for English learner students in Texas public schools to reach key educational outcomes for the first time, including attaining English proficiency and satisfactory performance on reading and mathematics state assessments. The study also estimated the probability of attaining these outcomes based on several student characteristics (e.g., initial English language proficiency, receipt of special education services, and being overaged at grade 1 entry) and educational experiences (e.g., the type of English learner program: English as a Second Language or bilingual). Historical data from the Texas Education Agency was used to construct a cohort of Hispanic students who entered Texas public schools in grade 1 as English learner students in the 2005/06 school year (85,611 students). Students were followed for up to eight years, through the 2012/13 school year, including while classified as English learner students and after exit from English learner status. Discrete-time survival analyses were used to estimate the probability of attaining outcomes over time. Attainment of English proficiency was examined with 71,140 students from the grade 1 cohort who were not yet proficient by grade 2 entry. Attainment of satisfactory performance was examined with students from the grade 1 cohort who remained in the state records and first took the state assessment in reading (69,216 students) or mathematics (69,014 students) in grade 3. Half of the students classified as English learner students in grade 1 who were not yet English proficient by grade 2 entry attained English language proficiency within 2.6 years of grade 2 entry (by the end of their expected grade 4 year). By grade 5, 70.6 percent of the students were assessed as English language proficient, and by grade 8, 88.1 percent of the students had attained this outcome. Most students in the study samples demonstrated at least satisfactory performance in reading (83.9 percent) and mathematics (79.7 percent) when tested in English or Spanish in grade 3, the first year the state assessments were administered to students. Larger majorities of the students had attained at least satisfactory performance by grade 5, including 96.2 percent in reading and 94.9 percent in mathematics. The findings identified several subgroups of English learner students who were most at risk for not making progress toward the three educational outcomes studied, particularly those who entered grade 1 with a beginning level of English proficiency, received special education services, or entered grade 1 over age. This study provides an example of the use of state historical data to inform realistic expectations for English learner students’ progress toward English proficiency and the risk factors associated with attaining academic milestones. The findings also suggest the importance of understanding middle school and high school outcomes as well as progress toward those outcomes for English learner students as a starting point to reducing the number of students with long-term English learner classification.
Publication Type:
Making Connections
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Publication Date:
November 2017