The Relationship Between English Proficiency and Content Knowledge for English Language Learner Students in Grades 10 and 11 in Utah

Primary Researchers: Eric Crane, Vanessa Barrat, Min Huang

Publication Date: March 2011


This study examines the relationship between performance on Utah's English proficiency assessment and English language arts and mathematics content assessments by English language learner (ELL) students and compares the performance of ELL and non-ELL students on the content assessments.

Research Questions

At the request of the Utah State Office of Education, researchers from REL West examined assessment data to answer two questions about the performance of Utah's English learners:

  1. What is the distribution of performance of ELL students in grades 10 and 11 on the Utah Academic Language Proficiency Assessment (UALPA), compared with their performance on the English language arts and mathematics content assessments of the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS)?
  2. How does the performance of ELL students on the English language arts and mathematics content assessments of the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students compare with that of non-ELL students, overall and by content standard?

Methodology

The Utah State Office of Education provided student-level datasets of all grade 10 and 11 students who took the language proficiency and content assessments in 2008/09. The language proficiency datasets included overall scaled scores and score categories (pre-emergent, emergent, intermediate, and advanced), and the content assessment datasets included the number and percent of correct responses by content standard for each student. Student records were linked across assessments by an anonymous numerical identifier.

Key Findings

  • Of grade 10 students who scored below intermediate on the language proficiency assessment, 6 percent scored 3 or 4 (the highest two scores) on the English language arts content assessment; of grade 10 students who scored intermediate on the language proficiency assessment, 14 percent scored 3 or 4 on the English language arts content assessment; and of grade 10 students who scored advanced on the language proficiency assessment, 59 percent scored 3 or 4 on the English language arts content assessment.
  • Of grade 11 students who scored below intermediate on the language proficiency assessment, 1 percent scored 3 or 4 on the English language arts content assessment; of grade 11 students who scored intermediate on the language proficiency assessment, 9 percent scored 3 or 4 on the English language arts content assessment; and of grade 11 students who scored advanced on the language proficiency assessment, 33 percent scored 3 or 4 on the English language arts content assessment.
  • The pre-2008/09 criteria for redesignating students as fluent in English were met by 19.7 percent of ELL students in grade 10 and 12.9 percent in grade 11. The criteria introduced in 2008/09 were met by 25.4 percent of ELL students in grade 10 and 19.5 percent in grade 11.
  • About 9 percent of ELL students in grade 10 and 5 percent in grade 11 scored 3 or 4 on the English language arts content assessment and below advanced on the language proficiency assessment.
  • ELL students were outscored by non-ELL students by an average of 1.3-1.6 standard deviations in both grades on the English language arts content assessment and by an average of 0.4-0.7 standard deviation on the mathematics content assessments.
  • Published: March 2011
  • Research Type: Issues & Answers
  • Methodologies: Descriptive
  • Contact info:
    Eric Crane 916.492.4080


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