Study of English Language Learners in Massachusetts

Research by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) has shown that the majority of English language learners (ELLs) who entered Massachusetts public schools in kindergarten were reclassified within three years, or by third grade, although nearly one-third of ELLs were never reclassified after eight years in Massachusetts public schools. Further, most former ELLs struggled with reading and mathematics in later grades. AIR is conducting research and analysis on extant Massachusetts state data that will provide a profile of ELLs and policy recommendations for improving their outcomes for the ESE.

The research described above was completed before recent changes in the standards and assessments for ELLs and before a major statewide initiative to improve the training of core academic teachers of ELLs. AIR will update these findings and identify additional findings of relevance to potential future policy decisions in this area.

The research is organized in two phases. In Phase I, AIR is conducting an aggregate district-level analysis of ELL student demographic, geographic, and academic program profiles that aims to document key trends across a sample of districts. In Phase II, AIR is conducting an in-depth investigation of a kindergarten cohort of ELLs to examine students’ academic trajectories over time from initial identification as ELL until 10th grade when they may or may not have been reclassified as fluent English proficient.