A Case Study of Long Term English Learners in One Middle School

This study analyzes factors that contribute to students remaining long term English learners (LTELs). Although the educational research on LTELs is limited, studies show a current increase in the number of EL students who are unable to reclassify and who remain LTELs, particularly in the secondary school setting. Further, research shows that LTELs are not successful academically and that their unique academic needs are not being met in the classroom. In addition, recent governmental policies have emerged that influence and highlight LTEL students. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of the LTEL population by investigating why LTEL students who have been enrolled in U.S. schools for more than six years remain LTELs throughout their educational experiences. For this study, a mixed method research design was conducted at a middle school in Southern California to determine which factors cause LTEL students to remain LTELs and not reclassify. Qualitative and quantitative research was conducted via a confidential survey. In addition, quantitative research was used to analyze student academic and demographic data. As perceived by twenty-seven teacher respondents to the survey from this sample school, the results show that LTELs are fluent in conversational English, but they struggle with reading and writing. Although LTELs are capable, some teachers believed that students tend to remain LTELs because they lack the motivation to succeed academically. Another reason for students remaining LTELs was teacher-based; survey participants reported that they lacked professional development aligned with research-based strategies to meet the needs of LTELs. Further some teachers in this study felt that parents contribute to children remaining LTELs because they do not help their children with schoolwork. Based on the analysis of student data points, in comparison to other ELs, LTELs possess higher English proficiency skills and yet they have lower GPAs. Among LTELs, male Latinos are at greatest risk of academic failure. The next step in this study will be to use the results to better educate teachers and parents about LTELs so that LTEL students can improve academically, reclassify, and ultimately become competitive and successful 21st century learners.