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Title: A Descriptive Analysis of Enrollment and Achievement Among English Language Learner Students in Pennsylvania
Description: The number of English language learner (ELL) students in Pennsylvania public schools rose 24.7 percent from 2002/03 to 2008/09, whereas total student enrollment fell 2.4 percent. During that period, ELL student enrollment increased from 2.1 percent of the student population in 2002/03 to 2.7 percent in 2008/09. These figures are of concern to educators because of the large achievement gaps between ELL and non-ELL students and the need to meet the No Child Left Behind Act goal of bringing all students to proficiency by 2014.

This report describes enrollment and achievement trends of ELL students in Pennsylvania public schools between 2002/03 and 2008/09. It documents achievement gaps between ELL and general education students in reading, math, and writing, as measured by statewide assessments administered in grades 3–8 and 11. The study's main findings include:

  • ELL students in Pennsylvania spoke 211 languages in 2008/09, up from 138 in 2002/03. In 2008/09, Spanish (spoken by 57.6 percent of ELL students in the state) had the most speakers, followed by English dialects (7.0 percent), Chinese (3.6 percent), Vietnamese (3.2 percent), Arabic (2.6 percent), and Russian (2.3 percent). ELL students speaking "other" languages (languages other than the 18 most common in the state) accounted for 12.2 percent of the ELL student population in 2008/09.
  • During the period studied, the overall achievement gap in reading, math, and writing between ELL and non-ELL students increased in all grades studied except for grade 3, where the achievement gap narrowed in reading and math.
  • The achievement gap between ELL and non-ELL students was 21–55 percentage points in reading, math, and writing every year during the period studied.
Online Availability:
Cover Date: April 2012
Web Release: April 24, 2012
Publication #: REL 2012127
Center/Program: REL
Associated Centers: NCEE
Type of Product: Issues and Answers Report
Questions: For questions about the content of this Issues and Answers Report, please contact:
Erin Pollard.