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


In this study, the authors explore English as a Second Language (ESL) placement as a measure of how schools label and process immigrant students. Using propensity score matching and data from the Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement Study and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the authors estimate the effect of ESL placement on immigrant achievement. In schools with more immigrant students, the authors find that ESL placement results in higher levels of academic performance; in schools with few immigrant students, the effect reverses. This is not to suggest a one-size-fits-all policy; many immigrant students, regardless of school composition, generational status, or ESL placement, struggle to achieve at levels sufficient for acceptance to a 4-year university. This study offers several factors to be taken into consideration as schools develop policies and practices to provide immigrant students opportunities to learn.


Author's version of a manuscript that was subsequently published in final edited form as: Educ Policy (Los Altos Calif). 2009 May 1; 23(2): 355–384. doi:10.1177/0895904807310034.

At the time of writing, Lindsey Wilkinson was affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin.



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