Where Do English Learners Go to School? Student Distribution by Language Proficiency in Arizona

Primary Researchers: Eric Haas, Min Huang

Publication Date: August 2010


Research suggests several circumstances in which a school may face greater challenges in effectively teaching its English language learner (ELL) students and in closing the achievement gap between ELL students and those who are native English speakers if the school:

  • Has high concentrations of ELL students
  • Has many socioeconomically disadvantaged students
  • Is located in an urban or rural, as opposed to suburban, area

Research also suggests that an open-enrollment program in a district may increase the concentrations of both ELL and socioeconomically disadvantaged students in some schools.

Study Overview

This study analyzes Arizona's student-level data to determine how concentrations of ELL students vary across its schools and vary by the following school characteristics:

  • School level
  • School type
  • Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
  • School location

Research Questions

This study addresses two research questions:

  1. How do the number and percentage of English language learner students vary by public school in Arizona?
  2. How does the percentage of English language learner students in Arizona public schools vary by school level, percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, school type, and school location?

Methodology

This study relies on three data sources:

  • The Arizona Department of Education provided anonymous, individual student data for all public school students for 2007/08. The data included school name, district name, identification as an English language learner student (yes/no) and identification as eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (yes/no).
  • Publically available data identifying public school type (traditional, alternative, and charter) for 2008/09 was retrieved from the Arizona Department of Education website.
  • Publically available data from the U.S. Department of Education's Common Core of Data provided school-level information for 2008/09, including school level, location, and urban-centric designation.

The descriptive analysis presents distribution patterns of English language learner student concentrations (0 percent, greater than 0 to 25 percent, greater than 25 percent to 50 percent, and greater than 50 percent) across Arizona public schools as a whole and by school characteristics:

  • School level (primary, middle, and high school)
  • Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (0 percent, greater than 0 to 25 percent, greater than 25 percent to 50 percent, greater than 50 percent to 75 percent, and greater than 75 percent)
  • School type (traditional, alternative, and charter)
  • School location (by county and by urban, suburban, and rural)

Key Findings

  • The concentrations of ELL students range from 0 to 87 percent and in number from 0 to 853.
  • Schools with smaller concentrations (19 or fewer) of ELL students were not required to submit disaggregated adequate yearly progress reports for ELL students or to implement the state's new four-hour-per-day English Language Development pullout program for ELL students. These schools represented 41 percent of Arizona's schools.
  • Schools with larger concentrations (40 or more) of ELL students were required to both disaggregate adequate yearly progress data and implement the new English Language Development pullout program. These schools represented 45 percent of Arizona's schools.
  • Schools with 20 to 39 ELL students were required to implement the new English Language Development pullout program, but not to disaggregate adequate yearly progress data. These schools represent 14 percent of Arizona's schools.
  • Schools with a majority (greater than 50 percent) of ELL students were more prevalent among primary schools than among middle and high schools, among traditional public schools than among alternative and charter schools, and in schools where more than 75 percent of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.
  • Schools with no ELL students were more prevalent in high schools, charter schools, and schools where no students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.
  • In the two counties with the largest total student enrollments, Maricopa and Pima, schools with no ELL students were located in close proximity to schools in which more than 50 percent of the students were English language learners.
  • Published: August 2010
  • Research Type: Technical Brief
  • Methodologies: Descriptive
  • Contact info:
    Eric Haas (510) 302-4288


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