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Alaska Native Students as English Learner Students: Examining Patterns in Identification, Classification, Service Provision, and Reclassification

Region:
Northwest
Description:

This report examines the population of Alaska Native students who are classified as English learner (EL) students and how EL policies function for these students, focusing on EL identification, classification, service provision, and reclassification as fluent English proficient. Alaska is one of several states where Indigenous students make up a large segment of the EL population. Drawing on Alaska state data from 2011/12 to 2018/19, this study found that roughly a quarter of Alaska Native kindergarten students statewide were classified as EL students. Alaska Native EL students are a diverse group. The Alaska Native EL students in the study spoke 24 different home languages and had varied demographic and education characteristics. Compared with non–Alaska Native EL kindergarten students, Alaska Native EL students had lower English proficiency levels and higher rates of economic disadvantage in a cash-based economy (defined in box 1). The percentage of kindergarten students who were Alaska Native EL students was highest in schools that were rural, schools that had higher rates of economic disadvantage, and schools that employed fewer English as a second language teachers. In interviews, four district leaders shared that identification, classification, service provision, and reclassification practices were the same for Alaska Native EL students as for other Alaska EL students. These interviewees shared that limited financial and human resources compromised the quality and availability of EL supports. However, a review of 26 district EL Plans of Service revealed that less than a third of districts described policies and services directed specifically toward Alaska Native EL students, including heritage language programs, community outreach, and collaboration between Alaska Native education programs and EL programs. Statewide, EL reclassification rates were low for all EL students but especially low among Alaska Native EL students. By the end of grade 7, only 11 percent of Alaska Native EL students had been reclassified compared with 30 percent of non–Alaska Native EL students. This report identifies implications for Alaska, and for other states serving Indigenous EL students, for ensuring that EL education policy, funding, and service provision support Alaska Native and other Indigenous EL students equitably and with excellence.

Publication Type:
Descriptive Study
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
May 2021