English Language Learners: A Case Study of Reclassification Data at a North County Middle School

The American school system assumes responsibility for providing public education to students whose primary language is not English. English language learners (ELL) are the fastest growing group of students in American public schools. The population of ELL students doubled in 23 states between 1995 and 2005 (Kim & Herman, 2010). The rapid growth of students has impacted states and local school districts to classify and reclassify students based on their language and academic proficiency skills. Currently, federal and state governments have set guidelines districts must follow when identifying, classifying, and exiting ELL students to mainstream English classes. Extensive research in this area provides a glimpse as to how every state has set their own criteria based on federal guidelines. Therefore, each state must set an umbrella from which each district must comply and follow set guidelines. Each school maintains their own discretion as to how they classify and reclassify ELL students within their own district (Abedi, 2008). The lack of uniform and consistent guidelines raises many questions as to how effective each district identifies, classifies, and reclassifies ELL students. This quantitative study will examine current classification and reclassification practices at a local North County Middle School. In order to examine current practices, it was important to identify a middle school that had a high percentage of ELL students. Based on those characteristics, a quantitative research study was conducted to look at their current practices and investigate whether those methods had a positive or negative effect on ELL students' overall language proficiency and academic aptitude.