More Boston Students Not Fluent in English, New Data Shows

The Boston Globe reported today that the number of students in Boston Public Schools who are not fluent in English–called English-language learners, or ELL–has been greatly underestimated. According to the Globe, new data released by BPS shows that 28% of the district’s total enrollment, 16,000 students, were identified as ELL this year. Last  year, the number of ELL students was 11,000. This spike is likely a one-time event that can be attributed to a change in the testing mechanism for fluency to include reading and writing in English, in addition to speaking and listening to English.

State tests show that ELL students’ academic performance is, on average, below that of non-ELL students–oftentimes 20 to 30 percentage points lower (source). In City Connects’ 12 Boston elementary schools in the 2008-09 academic year, 53% of students had a native language other than English and 18% had limited English proficiency.  The figure below shows that City Connects (CCNX) intervention has had significant effects on the report card scores of ELL students.

Longitudinal change in Reading report card scores,
CCNX vs. comparison-school students, disaggregated by ELL status

Data source: Boston Public Schools report card data, 2001-02 through 2007-08.

ELL and non-ELL students who were in CCNX schools started, on average, with significantly lower report card scores than their respective comparison students. Both ELL and non-ELL students who were continuously in CCNX schools from grades 1 through 5 had significantly greater improvement over time in reading scores than students who were never in CCNX.

The effect of CCNX on reading and writing report card score improvements was largest for ELL students. By third grade, ELL students in CCNX schools demonstrated similar reading and writing report card scores to those proficient in English in the comparison schools, thereby eliminating the achievement gap in reading and writing between ELL and non-ELL students.

Source: The Impact of Boston Connects Annual Report, 2008-2009 [pdf], page 12. Learn more about City Connects student outcomes on our results web page.

More reading about ELL students in BPS: English Learners in Boston Public Schools: Enrollment, Engagement and Academic Outcomes of Native Speakers of Cape Verdean Creole, Chinese Dialects, Haitian Creole, Spanish, and Vietnamese [pdf], a 2009 study by the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts-Boston

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