September 2021 – September 2027
The WIDA Consortium
Dr. Joseph Cimpian of New York University
Entry into and exit from English learner (EL) status are high-stakes decisions with implications for academic equity in the U.S. EL status governs the instructional settings, language supports, and educational opportunities available to students. Since former ELs are no longer entitled to language supports, exiting EL status too soon can leave these students linguistically unprepared for success in general education settings. However, maintaining EL status for too long can compromise students' opportunities to learn academic content among their peers. The decision is complicated by lack of universal agreement on a definition for English proficiency and wide variation in entrance and exit criteria. To reduce variability in EL entry and exit procedures within states, the 2015 reauthorization of Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA) required states to develop standardized procedures. The shift to statewide standardization in procedures provides a unique opportunity to study the impact of classification and reclassification nationwide. Of particular interest is assessing how impacts for students vary across contexts, such as the level of proficiency states require to exit, whether states consider factors other than ELP assessment scores, instructional policies (such as dual language or English-only instruction), policies for monitoring and serving former ELs, and characteristics of the EL population enrolled.
This study will describe state and district classification and reclassification policies and use a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to assess how these policies affect students' instructional experiences and outcomes. The RDD analysis will rely on student-level educational data from up to 30 states' longitudinal data systems (SLDS), representing more than 90 percent of ELs in the U.S. The RDD approach will compare students within each included district whose performance was just high enough to reclassify out of EL status with students in the district whose performance was just under the reclassification threshold. Similarly for analyses of initial classification, the RDD approach will compare students who just met the criteria for identification as an EL with students whose English proficiency was tested but who were not identified as an EL. The descriptive analysis will be based on existing information on state classification and reclassification policies and district and school surveys of local policies affecting ELs.
The first report for the study is expected in 2024 and will examine the impacts of reclassification policies in the post ESSA era from the 2017–18 through the 2021–22 school year. A report on the impacts of classification policies from 2017–18 through 2022–23 is expected in 2025. All reports will be announced on https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/.
Key findings will be available after each study report is published.