Taking advanced high school courses (for example, honors, Advanced Placement, and dual-credit courses that offer college credits in high school) can help prepare students for postsecondary education and careers. English learner students, however, face unique obstacles to taking advanced courses because they must divide their time between acquiring English proficiency and learning academic content. This descriptive study examines patterns in advanced coursetaking among current and former English learner students and never-English learner students in Washington state. Using state data about students enrolled in Washington public schools between 2009/10 and 2012/13, this study analyzed advanced course enrollment patterns and performance among the groups of students. It finds that where students attend school and their academic preparation account for much of the difference in advanced coursetaking. Specifically, current and former English learner students take 0.5 to 1 fewer advanced courses per school year than their never-English learner peers but enroll in advanced classes at similar rates when they are similarly prepared. The study also found that, compared to never-English learner students, current and former English learner students are 40 to 50 percent less likely to complete algebra I in middle school and students who pass this course in middle school take more than twice as many upper-level math courses as students who pass algebra I in grade 9. Current, former, and never-English learner students earn similar grades in those upper-level math courses. In addition, schools with the lowest percentages of current and former English learner students offer more advanced courses than other schools, even after accounting for school characteristics such as average standardized math and reading test scores. To improve access to advanced courses, schools, districts, and state agencies could consider investigating why current and former English learner students with high grade point averages or state math test scores are not enrolling in advanced courses as often as never-English learner students. They also might address language barriers and restrictive policies that could deter otherwise qualified students from taking advanced courses and expand advanced coursetaking opportunities at schools with high percentages of English learner students. The following are appended: (1) Data and methodology; and (2) Supplemental results.
ERIC DescriptorsAcademic Achievement, Academic Persistence, Achievement Gap, Advanced Courses, Advanced Placement, Algebra, College Readiness, Course Selection (Students), Dual Enrollment, English (Second Language), English Language Learners, Enrollment, Grades (Scholastic), High School Students, Regression (Statistics), Statistical Analysis
Northwest | Publication Type: Descriptive Study | Publication
Date: November 2016