Equity & Diversity Report Roundup

The Language of the Classroom

“Advanced Course Enrollment and Performance in Washington State: Comparing Spanish-Speaking Students With Other Language-Minority Students and English-Only Speakers”
By Sarah D. Sparks — January 17, 2017 1 min read

Regardless or whether they are proficient in English, Spanish-speaking students in Washington state are less likely to take advanced coursework than students who speak other languages or only English, according to a new study by the Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest.

Researchers compared participation for English-learner and English-proficient students of various language backgrounds in a variety of advanced courses, including Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, honors, and dual-college-enrollment courses, from 2009 to 2013.

They found that on average, Spanish-speaking students enrolled in half as many advanced classes each year as did English-only students or students from different first-language backgrounds who were at the same stage of learning English. By contrast, former English-language learners who were not Spanish speakers took about the same number of advanced courses each year as English-only students, and fully bilingual students took about one more advanced class each year than English-only students.

The Language of the Classroom

A study of Washington state students finds that Spanish-speakers, regardless of their proficiency in English, take fewer advanced courses than their peers whose first language is English or English-learners of other language backgrounds.

SOURCE: Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest

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Source: Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest

The Spanish-speaking students tended to have lower prior academic achievement than did students of other heritage languages, but the coursetaking gap was also likely in part because the schools with high concentrations of Spanish-speaking students, ELL or not, offered fewer advanced courses on average than than those with smaller Spanish-speaking populations. That dynamic held true even after students’ test scores and other characteristics were taken into account.

A version of this article appeared in the January 18, 2017 edition of Education Week as The Language of the Classroom


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