The longer students are classified as English-language learners, the greater the likelihood that they will drop out of school. And English-language learners who are reclassified as English proficient in earlier grades tend to be similar to non-English learners when it comes to achievement and dropout rates.
So says a new study on ELLs from researchers at the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, based at the University of California, Los Angeles. Using three years of statewide, student-level data, the report examines enrollment history, achievement gaps and staying power in school for ELLs and reclassified ELLs as compared to students who are not English learners. (The researchers don't identify the state but my money is on Maryland because the study says it's home to 24 school districts. Maryland has 24 districts.)
The report looks at many factors that contribute to how ELLs fare in school. The findings of the report build on other studies that have examined how a student's ELL status and the timing of when they are reclassifed as being fluent in English impacts their persistence in school.
The researchers found that dropout rates for ELL students were 25 percent, compared to 15 percent for non-English learners. English learners who were reclassified in later grades had higher dropout rates than those who were reclassified in the early grades: 33 percent dropped out if they were still classified as ELLs in high school, 22 percent of those reclassified in grade 5 or sooner dropped out, while 15 percent of students who got reclassified in grade 2 or earlier dropped out.
None of those outcomes is encouraging, but these research findings underscore the need for more effective programs for students who are long-term ELLs or those who only start to learn the language in later grades.