Student and School Characteristics Associated with Academic Outcomes for English Learner Students in Grades 3 Through 8 in Cleveland Metropolitan School District

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has witnessed increases in the number of English learner students in grades K–12 over recent years. As overall student enrollment decreased, the proportion of students classified as English learner students in the district rose. In addition, the English learner student population has grown more diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, countries of origin, and native language. This has been driven in part by an influx of resettled refugees speaking a variety of languages. These changes have resulted in an increasingly diverse English learner student population that requires more support from the district to meet diverse needs in terms of languages, cultures, and educational supports.

The Cleveland Partnership for English Learner Success is a researcher-practitioner partnership among researchers from Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest and members of Cleveland Metropolitan School District in the Multilingual Multicultural Education office and the district’s research office. The partnership has prioritized examining the characteristics of English learner students and the schools they attend to identify characteristics associated with student achievement and language proficiency. The study team conducted this research for the partnership as a step toward improving district and school supports for English learner students.

Key Findings

This study investigated the relationships of student and school characteristics with English learner student performance on statewide mathematics and English language arts assessments, and on English language proficiency levels. Among English learner students in grades 3–8 across school years 2011/12 through 2016/17, the study found the following:

  • Four domains of school climate capturing academic rigor, safe and respectful climate, peer social-emotional learning, and supportive learning environment were associated with higher English language speaking proficiency.
  • School climate domains capturing academic rigor and supportive learning environment also were associated with higher English language arts achievement.
  • A higher number of students per bilingual paraprofessional was associated with lower mathematics achievement.
  • A higher number of students per certified English as a second language teacher was associated with lower English speaking proficiency levels.