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The achievement progress of English learner students in Utah

The purpose of this study was to examine the cumulative progress of English learner students in Utah in English language proficiency (ELP) and in academic content knowledge in both English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. This study identified students in grades kindergarten, 3, and 6 who were designated as English learner students in 2006/07 and examined their progress from 2006/07 through 2011/12 on the ELP test, the ELA content test, and the math content test, as well as student characteristics. The analytic sample included all students identified as English learner students who were enrolled in the state's public schools in the designated grade of the first year of the cohort, progressed to the next grade level each year, and who had the required test data throughout the six years being analyzed. Each cohort consisted of a separate sample of students. The annual cumulative numbers and percentages of English learner students who met each progress criterion were calculated. The analyses were for each English learner grade-level cohort as a whole, as well as separately by the four student characteristics at the start of the study (2006/07): ELP level, designation as eligible for special education services, eligibility for a school lunch program, and gender. Results indicate that after six years, more than 90 percent of the English learner students scored at or above the required level of reclassified as fluent English proficient on the Utah ELP test. In each of the three grade-level cohorts, the overall cumulative passing percentage was highest for Utah's ELP test, followed by the ELA test, and then the math test. The largest differences in cumulative passing rates were associated with eligibility for special education services and initial ELP level. Higher grade students had lower cumulative passing percentages on all three tests compared to lower grade students. This study's findings identify subgroups of English learner students who may need more support to attain at least the expected minimum levels of academic achievement. All English learner students who are eligible for special education services will likely need additional support to be successful, and this support may need to vary by specific subgroups of learning disabilities. The study's findings also seem to suggest that higher grade students who are eligible for special education services will need different support than what the higher grade students received during the study period if they are going to achieve even minimal levels of academic achievement in ELA and math.
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Publication Date:
August 2016