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Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis

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English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers, Academic achievement -- Effect of ESL placement on, Language and education -- United States


The 1974 Lau decision requires that U.S. public schools ensure a meaningful education for students learning English. English as a Second Language (ESL) placement is an institutional response to the linguistic needs of these students; however, its academic implications remain largely unexplored. Using nationally representative data from the Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS), the effects of ESL placement on college preparatory course enrollment and academic achievement of language minority students are estimated, first with fixed effects regression models and then with multi-level propensity score matching techniques. While numerous school and individual level factors beyond language proficiency predict ESL placement, a significant negative estimated effect of ESL placement on science enrollment and cumulative GPA is consistently found. Perhaps more important, however, no positive effects of ESL placement on the achievement of language minority youth are found when accounting for English proficiency and other potential covariates.


This is the author's version of an article subsequently published in final edited form as Educ Eval Policy Anal. 2010 March ; 32(1): 84–117. doi:10.3102/0162373709359805.



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