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Time to Proficiency for Hispanic English Learner Students in Texas

by Rachel Slama, Ayrin Molefe, Dean Gerdeman, Angelica Herrera, Iliana Brodziak de los Reyes, Diane August and Linda Cavazos
Time to Proficiency for Hispanic English Learner Students in Texas

English learner students are challenged by the difficult task of learning English concurrently with learning content in areas such as reading and math. English learner students who have not attained proficiency in English or learned core course content by the middle and upper grades may not have the requisite skills to enroll in courses required for high school graduation, placing them at greater risk of dropping out of school before graduation. The lack of a high school diploma could subsequently limit the economic opportunities open to them. Texas, which serves 16 percent of the nation's English learner students (U.S. Department of Education, 2016), provides a unique context for examining the time it takes these students to achieve English proficiency and master core content. Using data from the Texas Education Agency, a study team from Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest examined the average time it took the 2005/06 cohort of grade 1 Hispanic English learner students in Texas public schools to attain English proficiency and to demonstrate at least satisfactory academic performance in reading and math as measured by state standardized assessments. This longitudinal study also examined whether the time it took students to attain these key outcomes differed by enrollment in a public prekindergarten program, initial English language proficiency level, the type of English learner program (English as a Second Language or bilingual), whether a parent had opted the student out of English learner services, and student background characteristics (gender, eligibility for the federal school lunch program, immigrant status, and participation in a special education program). This study demonstrates the use of state historical data to expand knowledge of how English learner students fare in school while classified as English learner students and after reclassification as fluent English proficient. Study results can be used to inform expectations for progress toward English language proficiency for English learner students.

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