Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How Long Does It Take English Learner Students to Become Proficient in English?

How long does it take an English learner student to gain proficiency in English? With the number of English learner students rising across the nation, this is an important question to answer as schools and school districts seek to improve outcomes for this diverse group of students. Data show that students who have not reached proficiency in English score lower on state assessments and graduate at lower rates than their English-proficient peers.

Building on a previous study, this new REL Northwest study analyzed data for almost 17,000 English learner students in seven Seattle-area school districts. It used a statistical model to estimate the time it would take English learner students in those districts to reach proficiency and to be reclassified as former English learner students. The study found that:

•    Students who entered kindergarten as English learner students took a median of 3.8 years to be reclassified by Washington state as former English learner students;

•    Students who entered kindergarten with advanced English proficiency were more likely than students who entered with basic or intermediate English proficiency to be reclassified;

•    Female English learner students were more likely than male English learner students to be reclassified; and

•    Speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, or Russian and Ukrainian were more likely than speakers of Somali or Spanish to be reclassified.

This information can help inform the kinds of supports schools offer their English learner students.

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