Grouping English Learners in Classrooms Yields No Benefit in Reading Development, Study Finds

Title: "Grouping English Learners in Classrooms Yields No Benefit in Reading Development, New Study Finds"

Published on October 19, 2023, this article discusses a new study challenging the conventional practice of grouping English learners together in classrooms. The study, conducted by literacy education researchers from NYU Steinhardt, indicates that this long-standing practice has neither a positive nor negative impact on the reading development of elementary school students. The original article can be accessed through the detailed URL: [URL Here].

Lead author Michael Kieffer, an associate professor at NYU Steinhardt, recalls his observations from 20 years ago when English learner students were consistently segregated from their native English-speaking peers throughout the day. Despite being encouraged by policies and educators' good intentions to provide targeted services, the study challenges this approach by demonstrating its lack of association with reading growth.

The study focused on "English learners" (ELs), identified as students with limited English proficiency receiving services to enhance their English language skills. Analyzing the progress of 783 ELs from a national sample tracked from kindergarten through fifth grade, the researchers used data collected by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Teacher reports on the percentage of ELs in classrooms were examined to assess any link between high EL concentrations and reading development. The analysis controlled for various factors, including socioeconomic status, academic and social-emotional skills, and school-level variables.

The findings, published in Educational Researcher, revealed neither a positive nor negative relationship between EL concentration and reading development. The absence of positive effects raises questions about the common assumptions underlying educators' efforts to separate ELs into distinct classrooms.

The researchers suggest that the positive and negative effects of grouping EL students might cancel each other out. For instance, the benefits of more targeted language instruction in a primarily EL classroom could be offset by the advantages of engaging with fluent English speakers.

In future research, the team hopes to delve deeper into classrooms to understand how teachers modify their instruction when teaching ELs in more and less integrated settings. This effort aims to uncover the specific benefits and disadvantages of grouping ELs together, providing valuable insights for educators.

The research received support from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (R305A200069 and R305B140037). The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.


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