New groundbreaking research from the UChicago Consortium on School Research shows that students who begin CPS as English Learners (EL) in kindergarten and reach proficiency by eighth grade are matching or exceeding the academic performance of their peers who have never been classified as ELs – a finding that speaks to the strength of bilingual supports and programming throughout the district. A link to the research can be found here: https://consortium.uchicago.edu/publications/English-learners-in-Chicago-public-schools
“This groundbreaking research challenges misconceptions and shows that CPS English Learners are playing a pivotal role in the district’s overall record-breaking academic progress,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “English Learners make up nearly 20 percent of the district’s enrollment and this research is a testament to the phenomenal work of students, teachers, principals and their families at schools across the city. We are thankful to the UChicago Consortium for conducting this truly groundbreaking research that will help inform practice in Chicago and beyond.”
By evaluating student performance from kindergarten through the beginning of high school, the Consortium found that by eighth grade most students who began as English Learners had higher attendance, math test scores and core course grades than their peers who were never classified as English Learners, while achieving similar reading test scores and Freshman OnTrack rates.
Students who have been identified as an English Learner at some point encompass nearly 32 percent of the district’s overall enrollment. According to the report’s findings, nearly four out of every five CPS English Learners (80 percent) developed English proficiency by eighth grade, with the majority of these students reaching proficiency by fifth grade (77 percent).
“The district’s strength lies in its diversity and this research is critical to understanding the big picture of academic progress at CPS,” said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “We welcome the opportunity to celebrate our students’ accomplishments as we strive to build upon this progress, increase investments in bilingual education, and work to ensure every student in every neighborhood has access to a high-quality education.”
Other key findings include:
- Between third and eighth grade, the percentage of CPS English Learners meeting or exceeding national averages grew 33 percentage points in reading and 18 percentage points in math;
- Ninth-grade English Learners had a Freshman OnTrack rate of over 90 percent;
- English Learners’ attendance rates exceeded district averages; and
- English Learners earned similar grade point averages as their peers who have never been classified as ELs.
“Available public data provides an incomplete picture of the academic performance of ELs, because they are based only on active English Learners—those students who have not yet reached proficiency on a state English test—at a specific moment in time,” said Marisa de la Torre, Senior Research Associate and Managing Director at the UChicago Consortium. “The Consortium study is different because for the first time we analyzed the long-term trajectories of 18,000 CPS students who began kindergarten as ELs and followed their progress all the way through eighth grade. EL students are making progress, but the growth is not apparent when you’re looking at different groups of students each year.”