English-Language Learners What the Research Says

Early Access to Advanced Courses Needed for English-Learners

By Corey Mitchell — August 27, 2019 1 min read

Helping English-learners access challenging courses may prevent them from developing long-term language difficulties, according to a new study in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

Prior studies on English-learner coursetaking identified three subgroups within the English-learner population: newcomers; reclassified English-learners; and long-term English-learners. The study—a longitudinal analysis of urban California students by the Center for School and Student Progress at NWEA, formerly the Northwest Evaluation Association—found newly arrived English-learners and those recently reclassified as proficient take just as many, if not more, advanced academic courses than their native English-speaking peers. Conversely, longer-term English-language learners take fewer advanced academic courses.

The study identified a fourth group of ELLs, dubbed “midterm” English-learners—students who are not newcomers, but may be on the path toward long-term English-learner status. The authors suggest schools must do more to support students who struggle with English proficiency and academics by prioritizing exposure to math, science, and social studies in the English-learner curriculum well before they reach high school, the final stage of their K-12 education. For that work, educators must avoid “watering down” the material, the study says.

“ELLs are very diverse,” said author, Angela Johnson, a research scientist at the NWEA center. “Educators and researchers have to appreciate the differences in their strengths and differences in their needs.”

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A version of this article appeared in the August 28, 2019 edition of Education Week as Early Access to Advanced Courses Needed for English-Learners

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