Study Shows Impressive Academic Gains Among English Language Learners

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National achievement data released this month included an unexpected bright spot.

A study published by Education Researcher shows that current and former English Language Learners in grades four and eight have made impressive gains in math and reading over the last 15 years, improving at a rate that was two to three times faster than their monolingual peers.

“It does seem to question the dominant narrative that English-learners are perpetually really struggling and schools are perpetually failing to serve their needs,” Michael Kieffer, one of the report’s authors, told Ed Week. “If we look at this trend over time, I think we’re seeing that schools are doing a better job of serving English-learners, including getting them reclassified in earlier grades, and then we see the latest successes.”

The study draws on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests that’s commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card. Its results push back against the idea that schools aren’t providing proper supports for ELL students, Kieffer said.

“Educators and policymakers have been misled by traditional ways of looking at achievement data for English learners,” Kieffer said in a New York University press release. “When we look at the broader population of multilingual students, we uncover remarkable progress.”

Read the full study.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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