Improving academic outcomes for English language learners

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With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project aims to gain access to college readiness for underserved students.

Official grant name

English Learner Funding and College Readiness

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Principal investigator

Cristobal Rodriguez

Direct sponsor

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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The challenge

English language learners represent a large population in K–12 classrooms across the nation and yet states are failing to improve academic outcomes for these students, including college readiness. 

Under current funding policies, school districts are unaware of which resource allocations are associated with improved student outcomes for English Learners. It is important to know which district actions, categories of funding and amounts of spending influence English Learner outcomes, specific to college-ready indicators. 

Access is known to have a greater influence — overall — on college preparation. Utilizing access data to develop an equity index specific for English language learners will provide a direct reference to district and state leaders on funding needed to enhance college readiness for these students.

Underfunding and a misuse of funding for English language learners is well documented throughout the country. By providing more guidance on spending, through a school-level college readiness equity index, K–12 leadership will have the opportunity to enhance outcomes of underserved students, namely English language learners.


The approach

This project, English Learner Funding and College Readiness Equity, will develop a school-level college readiness equity index specific for English language learners that also uses school funding expenditures. Spearheaded by Cristóbal Rodriguez, associate dean of Inclusion and Community Engagement and an associate professor, the project aims to explore the relationship between access to college preparation coursework by English language learners and school expenditures as reported by the Civil Rights Data Collection. 

Using Texas as a case study example, the project will utilize data provided by the Texas Education Agency, along with case-study districts that reflect Texas’ demographics and represent its various regions. 

To create the equity index, averages will be developed using an odds-ratio based on enrollment percent comparisons between college preparation enrollment and school enrollment across AP coursework, calculus, chemistry and physics. This tool will assist in discovering which schools have greater equity for English language learners. 

A postdoctoral researcher with expertise in school finance for English language learners will collect, prepare and analyze the data, and work closely with Rodriguez.


Findings and impact

Findings will be shared at the end of the year.