Inequalities in Postsecondary Attainment by English Learner Status: The Role of College-Level Course-Taking

This report finds that gaps in four-year college outcomes by English learner status are large, but are entirely explained by differences in sociodemographic, academic and school characteristics.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, it is estimated that 10% of U.S. public school students are currently classified as English Learner (EL). This report finds that gaps in four-year college outcomes by EL status are large, but are entirely explained by differences in sociodemographic, academic and school characteristics.

  •  After controlling for sociodemographic and school characteristics, EL students reclassified in middle and high school take fewer college-level courses during the junior and senior years of high school than Never EL students.
  •  In contrast, Never EL students and EL students reclassified in elementary school appear to take similar numbers of college-level courses.
  •  When considering academic characteristics like reading test scores, math test scores, average course grades and the number of college-level courses taken, differences in college-level course-taking explain 7% to 22% of the gap in four-year college enrollment between Never EL students and students reclassified in elementary, middle and high school.
  •  In terms of four-year college completion, differences in college-level course-taking explain 14% of the gap between Never EL students and students reclassified in middle school and 40% of the gap between Never EL students and students reclassified in high school.
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