Over the last two decades, the number of English learners (ELs) in Texas public schools has doubled. In the 2019-2020 school year, 1.1 million students were classified as ELs, which is about 20% of the total student population. In Texas, the EL population and their reclassification have garnered increased attention due to state and federal accountability standards. Many ELs reclassify in a timely manner and go on to achieve academic success; however, some remain ELs for several years despite involvement in programs aimed at improving their English-language skills. These students tend to struggle academically and are often referred to as LTELs.

This is the first in a series of briefs the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC) will release on LTELs. Currently, there is no formal definition of LTEL in Texas. This first brief compares three common definitions of LTEL (remaining an English learner for more than three years, more than five years, and more than seven years) to identify the most useful definition.

Based on the seven criteria outlined in this brief, we recommend LTEL be defined as remaining EL after five years in school. Using this definition of LTEL, HERC will move forward with this study by examining characteristics of LTELs and the schools that serve them, overall patterns of reclassification for ELs and LTELs, and the educational outcomes of LTELs.

Read the brief