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High school graduation rates across English learner student subgroups in Arizona

Region:
West
Description:

This study examined observed and predicted four-year high school graduation rates among native English speakers (students who have never been designated as English learners) and four English learner subgroups in Arizona: long-term English learner students; new English learner students; recently proficient former English learner students; and long-term proficient former English learner students. These student subgroups were determined by the amount of time a student spent as a designated English learner student and when a former English learner student was reclassified as fluent English proficient prior to high school.

The observed four-year high school graduation rate was calculated for each student subgroup as the percentage of students in each student subgroup who graduated within four years of entering grade 9. The predicted four-year high school graduation rate was calculated for each student subgroup using logistic regression, and adjusted for student demographic characteristics and prior achievement.

Results show that the largest difference in observed graduation rates, 36.1 percentage points, occurred between never English learner students and long-term English learner students. When comparing students with similar demographic characteristics only, the differences in predicted graduation rates across the student subgroups were about the same as those in observed graduation rates; however, when comparing students with both similar demographic characteristics and similar prior academic achievement, the gaps in graduation rates across the subgroups narrowed to a maximum of 5.5 percentage points. These results suggest that prior academic achievement, rather than demographic characteristics, explained most of the differences in graduation rates across the student subgroups and may have been a key factor driving graduation outcomes. To improve high school graduation rate for all the students, policymakers and educators might consider differentiating programs and practices for the needs of these English learner subgroups and developing programs that focus on promoting students' academic achievement prior to high school. More research is needed about how to help high school English learners (long-term and new English learner students) to learn both academic English and subject matter content knowledge during high school.

Publication Type:
Making Connections
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
November 2016
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