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English Learner Student Characteristics and Time To Reclassification: An Example From Washington State


March 2016


three students outside of a school

This study analyzed data for nearly 17,000 English learner students who entered kindergarten between 2005 and 2011 in seven Seattle-area school districts. The seven districts (Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Seattle, and Tukwila) make up the Road Map Project, an initiative aimed at doubling the proportion of students who are college and career ready by 2020. With a growing number of English learner students, districts and schools want to understand how long it takes students to gain proficiency in English and how the time varies according to different student characteristics.

Building on a previous study conducted for the Road Map Project, this study used a statistical model to estimate the time to reclassification. Key findings include:

  • Students who entered kindergarten as English learner students took a median of 3.8 years to develop the English proficiency necessary to be reclassified as former English learner students.
  • English learner students entering kindergarten with advanced English proficiency were more likely to be reclassified in their first eight years of school than those entering with basic or intermediate proficiency.
  • Female English learner students were more likely than male English learner students to be reclassified in their first eight years of school.
  • Speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, or Russian or Ukrainian (combined) were more likely to be reclassified in their first eight years of school than speakers of Somali or Spanish.

This information can help inform the kinds of supports schools offer their English learner students. View, download, and print the report as a PDF file via the IES website.