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English learner proficiency in Texas before and during the COVID-19 pandemic




Description: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students across Texas have had limited and disrupted access to typical educational contexts and services. Many students attended school fully or partially remote during 2020/21, and the face-to-face experience for those attending in-person had changed. These changes to remote or hybrid instruction raise risks for student progress and learning, especially for English learner students, who need extensive opportunities to practice speaking and hearing English in order to develop English oral language proficiency as well as literacy skills. This study, in partnership with the Texas Education Agency, will include descriptive and correlational analyses to understand the extent to which Texas English learner students' English language proficiency differed before and after the start of the pandemic.

The findings from this study will help the Texas Education Agency make decisions about how and where to invest resources for English learner students in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in their upcoming legislative session. In addition, the findings will also be used to inform the revision of English language proficiency standards that are meant to be introduced in the state of Texas in the coming years.

Research Questions:

  1. To what extent is the composition of English learner students in Texas who took the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) representative of the enrolled English learner student population, in the years before and after the March 2020 start of the COVID-19 pandemic (that is, in 2018/19 and 2020/21)?
  2. What are the rates of reclassification (that is, of students being exited from English learner status) and the characteristics of those reclassified before and after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic disruption (that is, as of 2019/20 and 2020/21)?
  3. To what extent does the English proficiency of the population of Texas English learner students in 2018/19 differ from that of 2020/21, overall and by domain of language skill (listening, speaking, reading, writing), after accounting for student characteristics? Is there variation by district characteristics?
  4. Which malleable factors (that is, educational setting, student participation in a bilingual program or English as a second language program) are positively or negatively associated with English learner student English proficiency in spring of 2020/21, after accounting for prior-year scores and students and school characteristics? Is there variation by district characteristics?

Study Design: REL Southwest will address the research questions using extant student, school, and district data available from the Texas Education Research Center. For the first research question, the study team will examine the composition of test-takers of the state's English language proficiency assessment, the TELPAS, before and after the start of the pandemic, assessing the representativeness of TELPAS test-takers of the enrolled English learner student population. It will also examine the degree to which the composition of students who were exited from English learner student status immediately before and after the start of the pandemic may have differed, to provide context for interpretation of findings from the subsequent research questions.

For the third research question, correlational analyses will be used to compare students' post-pandemic TELPAS scores to scores from a matched pre-pandemic group of students. Models will be run separately by grade and will nest students in schools in districts. For the final research question, the study team will examine variation in those TELPAS scores based on educational setting (remote vs. in-person instruction) and English learner program model (for example, English as a second language and dual-language immersion).

Projected Release Date: November 2022

Partnership or Research Alliance: Standalone partnership with the Texas Education Agency

Related Products: This project will result a 15-page research report.

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:

Lisa Hsin, American Institutes for Research
Amie Rapaport, Gibson Consulting
Rachel Garrett, American Institutes for Research