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ERIC Number: ED530263
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Mar
Pages: 35
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 38
The Educational Trajectories of English Language Learners in Texas
Flores, Stella M.; Batalova, Jeanne; Fix, Michael
Migration Policy Institute
About 5.3 million English Language Learners (ELLs)--students whose primary language is not English and whose English language skills are not sufficient to keep up with classes conducted only in English--are enrolled in PK-12 public schools across the United States. The number of these students increased dramatically in ten years, from 3.5 million in the school year (SY) 1998-99 to 5.3 million in 2008-09, reflecting broader national demographic and immigration trends. One in nine of today's public school students face the task of learning English. The educational outcomes for these students can either translate into a more productive, multilingual workforce or higher levels of academic failure and dropouts, with the attendant social costs. As the number and share of such students have grown over time, so has public interest and policymakers' attention to their educational outcomes, fueling debate over the most effective methods of language instruction for ELLs. The "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act of 2001, the most recent comprehensive federal education policy, requires states to assess English language proficiency and holds them accountable for ensuring that ELLs both learn English and acquire the same academic knowledge as their English-speaking peers. Following enactment of the NCLB Act, states have paid greater attention to ELLs as a group, yet data limitations often constrain educators and policymakers from determining how well these students are doing in school compared with their English-speaking peers. To answer this question--at least in part--the authors have focused on Texas, the state with the second-largest number of ELL students in the nation (about 832,000 ELL students in 2011, behind California's 1.1 million). To do so, the authors use a unique longitudinal data set obtained from the University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC) that tracks ELL and non-ELL students in Texas from the first grade through high school graduation and into their postsecondary careers. They analyze the performance and trajectories of several groups of students. One group is composed of students who entered Texas public schools as first graders in 1995 and who advanced through school, reaching the 12th grade "on time" in 2006. They refer to this group throughout the report as the "on-time cohort" (or "cohort" for short). It includes students who have ever been classified as ELLs ("ever-ELLs") and those who have never been ("non-ELLs"). The authors' analysis highlights substantial differences in test scores of ever-ELL students in the cohort by race and ethnicity; Asian students are the top-performing group, followed by white and then by Black and Hispanic students. Asian and white on-time cohort students who were ever classified as ELLs were almost as likely to graduate from high school as their non-ELL counterparts, while Black ever-ELLs were "more" likely to graduate. Among their other findings: (1) Students' graduation from high school may be more highly correlated with race and ethnicity than ELL status; (2) Ever-ELLs in the on-time cohort, regardless of racial or ethnic category, were much more likely to be economically disadvantaged than their non-ELL counterparts, with 90 percent of Hispanic ever-ELLs eligible for free and reduced-price lunches compared to 65 percent of Hispanic non-ELLs; (3) The percentage of ever-ELL high school graduates in the on-time cohort who entered the workforce instead of going to college was higher among Hispanics than other groups, with 16 percent of Hispanic ever-ELLs heading to work compared to 9 percent of Black and 4 percent of Asian ever-ELLs; (4) The outcomes of ever-ELLs in the on-time cohort are far superior to those of "all students" ever classified as ELL. This latter group includes those who entered the Texas system after the first grade, those who may have been held back, and those who may have dropped out; and (5) While the majority of the on-time cohort students (between 60 to 95 percent depending on students' ELL status, race or ethnicity, and subject test scores) achieved the basic proficiency level ("met the standard") on both math and reading tests, much lower shares (between 13 to 25 percent) of students reached the "commended performance" level despite the fact that the Texas Education Agency recognizes this standard as "goal for the majority of our students." In terms of Texas students' postsecondary trajectories, the authors find that Hispanic students whose parents opted to remove them from ELL classes were significantly less likely to go to college than their white counterparts, holding other factors constant. The authors also note the large gap in college enrollment between whites and Hispanics persisted among ever-ELLs even when student demographics and school context are taken into account, with Hispanic ever-ELLs substantially less likely to enroll. Surprisingly, the authors also find that exposure to work in high school may improve ELLs' performance. Those who also held a job while in school were more likely to go to college after graduation. Finally, consistent with previous research, the authors find that poverty and access to college-ready academic opportunities are among the most influential factors determining one's chances to attend college. Regardless of their ELL status, students from poor families were substantially less likely to go to college right after graduation from high school. In contrast, dual-credit programs that let students gain both secondary- and postsecondary-level credits at the same time boosted students' chances of enrolling in college. Appended are: (1) Percentage of On-Time Cohort Members Who "Met the Standard" on Math and Reading Tests, by ELL Status; (2) Percentage of Students Who "Met the Standard" on Math and Reading Tests, by Race, Ethnicity, and ELL Status; (3) Percentage of Ever-ELL Students in the On-Time Cohort, by Years in ELL Program, Who "Met the Standard" in Math and Reading (Compared to Non-ELL Students); (4) Percentage of Members of On-Time Cohort and "All Students" Who "Met the Standard" in Math and Reading, by ELL Status; (5) Percentage of Members of On-Time Cohort and "All Students" Who Reached the "Commended Performance" Level in Math and Reading, by ELL Status; and (6) Factors Influencing the College Enrollment of the On-Time Cohort High School Graduates by ELL Status (logit results). (Contains 9 tables, 11 figures and 41 footnotes.)
Migration Policy Institute. 1400 16th Street NW Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-266-1940; Fax: 202-266-1900; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Carnegie Corporation of New York; National Academy of Education; Spencer Foundation; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
Identifiers - Location: Texas
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001
IES Cited: ED560752; ED546480