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Tech Report  February 28, 2017

Graduation Outcomes of Students Who Entered New York City Public Schools in Grade 5 or 6 as English Learner Students



Kieffer, M. J., & Parker, C. E. (2017). Graduation outcomes of students who entered New York City public schools in grade 5 or 6 as English learner students (REL 2017–237). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands.


This study describes high school graduation outcomes for students who entered New York City schools in grade 5 or 6 as English learner students. It uses longitudinal administrative data from New York City public schools to focus on 1,734 students who entered New York City schools and were initially classified as English learner students in grades 5 and 6 in the 2003/04 school year. This study followed these cohorts through their expected years of graduation (2009/10 and 2010/11) to estimate on-time graduation rates and for two additional years (that is, through 2011/12 and 2012/13) to estimate five-year and six-year graduation rates. To determine if the differences in graduation outcomes between the sub-groups of long-term English learner students and short-term English learner students were statistically significant, logistic regression was used. Approximately 64 percent of students in these cohorts graduated from high school on time while an additional 15 percent graduated within six years of entering grade 9, yielding a six-year cohort graduation rate of 79 percent. Students in these cohorts earned a variety of diploma types including the standard Regents diploma (41 percent), the more rigorous Advanced Regents diploma (19 percent), and the less rigorous Local diploma (19 percent). Additional exploratory regression analyses indicated that long-term English learner students had statistically significantly higher probabilities of earning a Local diploma and statistically significantly lower probabilities of earning a Regents diploma or an Advanced Regents diploma than short-term English learner students. The differences in diploma types earned by long-term and short-term English learner students are not explained by differences in their background characteristics. This study has implications for understanding graduation patterns of English learners. Six-year graduation rates may be particularly important to consider when describing the graduation outcomes of students who enter school as English learner students. Policy makers should explore the implications for college readiness of the higher rate of English learner students receiving the less rigorous Local diploma versus a Regents diploma or an Advanced Regents diploma. Future efforts to investigate the extent to which districts and schools are meeting the needs of English learner students need to be careful to track students over time, regardless of whether they have met standards for English proficiency.

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