SREE 2017 Spring Conference
March 1-4, Washington, DC
"Middle School Language Classification Effects on High School Achievement and Behavioral Outcomes"
Authors: Marcela Reyes & NaYoung Hwang
English Language Learners (ELLs) are students who speak another language at home and who have not yet reached full English proficiency are among the lowest performers on a broad range of educational outcomes even when they are compared with Reclassified Fluent English Proficient (RFEP), former ELL students. RFEP students outperforming ELL students on every measure examined can suggest that the criteria used to determine when an ELL student no longer needs support to learn English separates those who are stronger academic performers from those who are less able. Alternatively, ELL students are more likely to be placed in less rigorous courses separate from RFEP peers, which might lead students to disengage and underperform. At the same time, not all RFEPs are equal: those who are reclassified in earlier grades are more likely to progress on time, have higher test scores, and have other positive outcomes in their final years of high school.
I compare current ELL students with students who had only been recently reclassified in middle school, either in seventh or eighth grade.
OLS estimates coincide with previous studies, demonstrating that students who become RFEP in middle school have higher California Standards Test (CST) in English Language Arts, and California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) ELA and math scores. Additionally, RFEP students are more likely to be placed in more advanced math courses in high school than the ELL students. Furthermore, RFEP students are less likely to be absent and have less on-campus suspensions than ELL students. However, the regression discontinuity models show, in most instances, academic and behavioral differences between ELL and students who RFEP in middle school are spurious and not due to language classification itself. Only in a few instances do differences exist, and RFEP students are less likely to pass the CHASEE ELA portion and more likely to be suspended on-campus compared with ELL students.