Catching Up or Falling Behind? Initial English Proficiency, Concentrated Poverty, and the Reading Growth of Language Minority Learners in the United States

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This study contrasts growth trajectories in English reading for 2 groups of language minority (LM) learners-those who enter kindergarten with limited oral English proficiency and those who enter kindergarten proficient in oral English-with that of native English speakers. Fitting a multilevel model for change to longitudinal data on a nationally representative sample, this study examines students' growth trajectories from kindergarten through 5th grade. Three noteworthy findings emerge. First, LM learners entering kindergarten proficient in English have trajectories similar to those of native English speakers, but LM learners entering kindergarten with limited English have trajectories that diverge from those of native English speakers, yielding large differences in achievement by the 5th grade. Second, controlling for demographic risk factors, including socioeconomic status (SES), reduces the effect of initial English proficiency from large to moderate and yields differences that narrow over time. Finally, these differences depend on school poverty, with smaller differences evident among students in high-poverty schools than among students in low-poverty schools. Results emphasize the need for academic interventions for LM learners who enter school with limited English proficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-868
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Volume100
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2008

Fingerprint

Accidental Falls
Poverty
kindergarten
Reading
Language
minority
poverty
Students
Growth
language
school
Minority Groups
school grade
Social Class
student
Demography
social status

Keywords

  • achievement gaps
  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort
  • poverty
  • reading development
  • second-language learners

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education

Cite this

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title = "Catching Up or Falling Behind? Initial English Proficiency, Concentrated Poverty, and the Reading Growth of Language Minority Learners in the United States",
abstract = "This study contrasts growth trajectories in English reading for 2 groups of language minority (LM) learners-those who enter kindergarten with limited oral English proficiency and those who enter kindergarten proficient in oral English-with that of native English speakers. Fitting a multilevel model for change to longitudinal data on a nationally representative sample, this study examines students' growth trajectories from kindergarten through 5th grade. Three noteworthy findings emerge. First, LM learners entering kindergarten proficient in English have trajectories similar to those of native English speakers, but LM learners entering kindergarten with limited English have trajectories that diverge from those of native English speakers, yielding large differences in achievement by the 5th grade. Second, controlling for demographic risk factors, including socioeconomic status (SES), reduces the effect of initial English proficiency from large to moderate and yields differences that narrow over time. Finally, these differences depend on school poverty, with smaller differences evident among students in high-poverty schools than among students in low-poverty schools. Results emphasize the need for academic interventions for LM learners who enter school with limited English proficiency.",
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