Making English Learner Reclassification to Fluent English Proficient Attainable or Elusive: When Meeting Criteria is and is not Enough


Estrada, P., & Wang, H. (2018). Making english learner reclassification to fluent english proficient attainable or elusive: When meeting criteria is and is not enough. American educational research journal, 55(2), 207–242.


Employing longitudinal, multisite comparative mixed-methods, we describe patterns of reclassifying and not reclassifying eligible English learner (EL) students to fluent English proficient, and we identify factors impeding and facilitating reclassification. Analyses of administrative data for 7 cohorts of students over 3 years in one district and 2 years in another revealed a considerable number of students meeting all criteria, and a nonoverlapping group meeting at least standardized-test criteria, were not reclassified, implicating this practice in the production of long-term EL status. However, the rate of not reclassifying was more than 2 to 5 times higher in one district than the other. Analyses of policy documents, reclassification decision forms, staff interviews, and surveys revealed that undergirding these differences were distinct reclassification policies and practices. We discuss policy, practice, and research implications, including issues of opportunity to learn, equity, and the need for a common definition of ELs involving a common set of specific criteria and standardized processes for reclassification statewide.

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