Academic achievement outcomes of Latino English-language learners in Texas: a longitudinal analysis
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Texas has one of the highest populations of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the U.S., with a complex system for ELL identification, program placement, and high- stakes assessment. Spanish-speaking Latino ELLs represent a large proportion of this population in this state. The long-term academic achievement of ELLs identified in elementary grades and educated in different program placements is not well known. Prior research presents support for Bilingual Education models as most promising for future student achievement. Using strict sampling criteria and analysis of variance (ANOVA) procedures, this study compared student achievement during secondary years, as measured by high-stakes assessments, of demographically similar Latino former-ELLs, long-term ELLs, and non-ELLs who received a variety of language service programming during elementary school. This study examined data from a cohort of 18,188 students enrolled in all 10 major urban school districts in Texas from 3rd to 9th grades, between the 2003-2004 and 2009-2010 school years. Math and reading high-stakes test scores during students’ 7th and 9th grade years were used as outcome variables. Key findings show that ELLs who did not receive any language programming have significantly higher achievement outcomes than ELLs who received English as a Second Language (ESL), Bilingual Education, or equal years of ESL and Bilingual. These students performed on par with their non-ELL peers in both math and reading. Results also show achievement differences between former-ELLs who were able to achieve English language proficiency by the start of middle school, and long-term ELLs who remained ELL through secondary education. Former-ELLs had favorable outcomes, with math achievement scores that were higher than non-ELLs, whereas long-term ELLs performed significantly lower than both former- ELLs and non-ELLs at all study points. Interactions between programming received and ELL-type, as well as the effects of immigration status and district of enrollment were explored. Results were unexpected and highlight the need for further longitudinal research on existing ELL populations across the state of Texas. Implications of this study support current educational policies that shift away from prolonged Bilingual Education toward ESL and mainstream-English only programming for ELLs. Additional policy implications and directions for future research are discussed.