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High Expulsion Rates, Lower Test Scores for Oregon English-Language Learners

Cross-posted from the Learning the Language blog

By Corey Mitchell

Middle and high school English-language learners in six Oregon school districts are suspended and expelled at slightly higher rates than their native English-speaking peers, a new study from the Regional Education Laboratory Northwest found.

The study also found that ELLs subjected to suspension or expulsion had "substantially" lower achievement on state tests than English-learners who weren't. The analysis shows that ELLs in middle and high school mare suspended more often for aggression and insubordination, but does not explain why.

"Disciplinary actions that take students out of the classroom can make it more difficult for them to stay on track to graduate," the report summary read. "This is true particularly for English-learner students, who typically have lower scores on state assessments and higher dropout rates than non-English-learner students."

Relying on data from the 2011-12 school year, the study shows that native English speaking students are disciplined at a slightly higher rate than ELLs in elementary school.

On average, ELL students lost 1.9 school days in elementary school, 3.5 days in middle school, and 4.9 days in high school because of suspension; native English-speaking students lost 2.3 days in elementary school, 3.3 days in middle school, and 4.1 days in high school.

"The findings shed light on disciplinary practices in a group of Oregon districts with a growing number of English-learner students and could help inform policy and practice decisions," REL Northwest's Art Burke, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The six participating districts, Portland, Reynolds, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Tigard-Tualatin, and Beaverton, are in the two Oregon counties that together have the most diverse student population in the state.

Together, the districts represent 24 percent of all K-12 students in Oregon. About 14 percent of the students in the districts are classified as ELLs.

The authors report that national data on suspension and expulsion of ELLs is sparse. But English-language learners, who constitute about 10 percent of pre-K-12 public school enrollment nationwide, are not pushed out of school through suspensions and expulsions at disproportionate rates.

Lawmakers in Oregon have moved to devote more resources to ELL education. This summer, the state legislature directed the state Department of Education to develop plans to better track academic progress and spending on ELLs.

House and Senate leaders there also approved an additional $12.5 million in funding for language-learners, the Bend Bulletin reports.

  Rel Oregon Ells

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