College & Workforce Readiness

English-Learners and Graduation: How ESSA Could Penalize ELLs and Their Schools

By Corey Mitchell — April 29, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The nation’s federal K-12 law may be penalizing older English-language learners and the schools that educate them, a new report from the Migration Policy Institute argues.

By making four-year graduation rates such a prominent part of school accountability plans, the Every Student Succeeds Act could lead administrators in traditional high schools to turn away older English-learner students who may need additional time to earn their high school diplomas, posits Julie Sugarman, a senior policy analyst with the institute and the report’s author.

The report from the institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy also examines why high-school age English-learners drop out of school, how graduation rates are calculated, and how a heavy emphasis on graduation rates can affect how schools design instructional programs for English-learners.

While federal law has helped close opportunity gaps for English-learners by requiring schools to document and publicly report on their educational progress, ESSA could “disproportionately categorize English-learners as failures or, more concerningly, incentivize schools to push such students into inappropriate educational pathways or not to serve them at all, for fear of the consequences attached to being labeled as a school in need of improvement,” Sugarman writes.

Schools Struggle to Meet Needs of Older English-Learners

School districts have struggled to meet the educational needs of older English-learners, including refugee and immigrant students who often have gaps in their formal education and may suffer from emotional trauma. Despite laws that allow young people to enroll in traditional public schools until they reach age 20 or 21, some high schools have barred older immigrant and refugee students, kept them out of class for months, or sought to enroll them in alternative education.

Under ESSA, states must submit school accountability plans that include data from districts on four-year graduation rates. While states can supplement their calculation of the four-year graduation rate with an extended-year rate, 16 states and the District of Columbia have chosen not to, the report finds.

Altogether, those states serve about 60 percent of the nation’s estimated 5 million English-learners.

Here’s a look at the report:

MPI EL Graduation Rate by corey_c_mitchell on Scribd

Related Reading

Report: Deportation Fear Grips Immigrant and Refugee Students in U.S. Schools

Helping Newcomer English-Learners Earn High School Diplomas

What Can Educators Do to Increase Graduation Rates for English-Learners?

Older ELLS Can Face Restricted Learning Opportunities

For Stalled ELL Students, Graduation Is Often an Elusive Goal

Image Credit: Students in the District of Columbia’s International Academy at Cardozo Education Campus, immigrants from Central America and Asia, work on an assignment in history class.

--Greg Kahn for Education Week

Related Tags:

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


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion An Economist Explains How to Make College Pay
Rick Hess speaks with Beth Akers about practical advice regarding how to choose a college, what to study, and how to pay for it.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.
Marchmeena29/iStock/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor How We Can Improve College-Completion Rates
Early- and middle-college high schools have the potential to improve college completion rates, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read