Skip Navigation

Home Publications Advanced course enrollment and performance in Washington state: Comparing Spanish-speaking students with other language minority students and English-only speakers

Advanced course enrollment and performance in Washington state: Comparing Spanish-speaking students with other language minority students and English-only speakers

by Havala Hanson, Biraj Bisht and Jason Greenberg Motamedi

Students who take advanced courses in high school are more likely to enroll and persist in college. This report describes patterns in advanced coursetaking among three groups of students in Washington state: Spanish-speaking students, other language minority students whose primary or home language is not Spanish, and English-only speakers. This study examined four research questions: (1) How many advanced courses do Spanish-speaking students, other language minority students, and English-only speakers in Washington state take per school year, and how does this vary by English learner student status?; (2) How much does prior academic performance, as measured by grade point average and state standardized test scores from the previous school year, account for differences in advanced course enrollment across groups?; (3) How do the grades earned in advanced courses compare among Spanish-speaking students, other language minority students, and English-only speakers, and how do grades vary by English learner student status?; and (4) How does the number of advanced courses offered vary between schools with a high percentage of Spanish-speaking students and schools with a low percentage of Spanish-speaking students? It finds systemic gaps in both course enrollment and performance for Spanish-speaking students, regardless of their English learner status. Other language minority students take more advanced courses than do English-only speakers. When other language minority students become English proficient, they perform in advanced courses as well as or better than English-only speakers do. Accounting for differences in students' prior grade point average and state standardized test scores in math and reading explains most, but not all, of the gaps in advanced course enrollment and performance. The findings can help local and state policymakers improve education outcomes for Spanish-speaking students and may suggest areas for future research. Data and methods are appended.

Online Availability


Connect with REL Northwest