This study was prompted by the Arizona Department of Education's interest in learning more about the progress of English learners (ELs) toward English proficiency in the early grades. The study examined the English language proficiency (ELP) and English language arts (ELA) proficiency (reading and writing at grade level) of non-native English speakers in kindergarten and then in grade 3. About 11 percent of 2013/14 kindergartners in Arizona were initially classified as ELs. At the end of that school year, Arizona retested all non-native English speakers after setting a higher threshold for ELP. The proportion of kindergartners classified as ELs rose to 18 percent after reassessment under the new ELP threshold. This study found that the kindergartners initially classified as English language proficient and later reclassified as ELs at the end of kindergarten were no more likely to achieve proficiency by the end of grade 3 than were students initially classified at the below English proficient level. This finding suggests that students who were reclassified likely needed English learner services at kindergarten entry. The group of non-native English kindergarteners who were proficient in English when they entered kindergarten and confirmed as proficient when reassessed at the end of the school year, outperformed native English speakers on grade 3 ELA proficiency assessments. These results increase confidence that these non-native English speaker kindergartners were correctly classified as not needing EL services.
English Language Arts