Schools attended by many English Language Learners (ELLs) may themselves be contributing to poor achievement by ELLs, according to a study recently released by the Pew Hispanic Center.
In this study of assessment data from five states (Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas), ELLs who went to schools where they made up a majority or a substantial minority of students were less likely to reach proficiency levels in math than ELLs in schools with more white students. For example, among 8th-grade ELL students in Florida, about 30% scored at or above the proficient level in math if they attended a middle school that had a minimum threshold number of white students compared to only about 10% at middle schools that did not have a sufficient number of white 8th-grade students.
“This suggests that the lag in test score achievement of ELL students is attributable in part to the characteristics of the public schools they attend,” the study says.
Schools with high concentrations of ELLs are mostly inner city schools, the study says, and report poor achievement by white, black other major student groups as well as ELLs. These schools have a set of characteristics associated with poor standardized test performance–such as high student-teacher ratios, high student enrollments and high levels of students living in or near poverty, the report says.
Researchers used newly available school-level assessment data from the National Longitudinal School-Level State Assessment Score Database to examine how ELL students performed on math compared with other students in the same public school. Until recently, it was only possible to compare ELL students’ academic achievement with other students on a statewide basis. The study showed that white and black test-takers scored lower if they were educated at public schools in which ELL students were concentrated.
More than two-thirds of ELL students are educated in six large states, the report says: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois and Arizona.
Pew Hispanic Center “The Role of Schools in the English Language Learner Achievement Gap” June 26, 2008.