Equity & Diversity

English-Language-Learner Graduation Rates Are All Over the Map

By Corey Mitchell — January 04, 2016 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The graduation rate for the nation’s English-language learners in the class of 2014 rose to 62.6 percent, a slight increase over the previous year, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education last month.

The nation’s four-year graduation rate for ELLs, which includes some students who were once classified as English-learners, has improved nearly six percentage points over the past three years.

Despite the increase, the percentage of ELLs graduating high school within four years still trails other subgroups, including students with disabilities and those who come from low-income families.

The graduation rates vary widely from state to state. West Virginia, where roughly 1 percent of students are English-learners, had the largest percentage of ELLs graduate on time with 89 percent.

Arkansas and Iowa also had graduation rates that topped 80 percent.

But in Arizona, which has the 11th highest ELL enrollment in the nation, just 18 percent graduated within four years. That number is of note because the state has been at the epicenter of the national debate over how best to teach students who enter school speaking another language. For years, Arizona’s approach to teaching ELLs included a daily four-hour block of English-only instruction. The state education department decided this past fall to allow school districts to cut the time some English-learners spend in the mandatory, four-hour block of English-language instruction.

Besides Arizona, Nevada was the only other state that had less than a third of its ELL students graduate on time. Both states have sizable ELL populations.

In California, the state with the largest K-12 ELL enrollment, 65 percent of English-learners graduated in four years.

About 71 percent of English-learner high school students graduated high school on time in Texas, which has the nation’s second-largest K-12 enrollment.

The national graduation rate for the class of 2014 reached 82 percent, but significant gaps remain for student groups across the landscape.

Here’s a state-by-state look at graduation rates:

2014 State ELL Graduation Rates
Create your own infographics

Related Stories

Graduation Rates on ELLs Still a Mystery

Stemming the Tide of English-Learner Dropouts

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.