How Classroom Context Impacts the Academic Achievement of English Learners in a New Immigrant Destination
English learners (Els), defined as students who are identified as needing support learning English in school, are a rapidly growing and underperforming segment of the public school population. Schools in new immigrant destinations, that is, areas in the United States that traditionally have not had a large immigrant population, are having to create new structures and policies to support and instruct Els. This study focuses on the schooling experiences of English learners in North Carolina, one new immigrant destination. Specifically, this study documents two classroom characteristics: the extent to which Els are segregated from native English speakers and whether Els have access to teachers who have an English as a Second Language teaching credential or experience teaching Els. Additionally, it estimates the relationship between these two classroom characteristics and achievement using OLS regression and regression with school and student fixed effects. Results include that: 1) Els are largely integrated with native English speakers; that is, they are typically enrolled in classes where the majority of their peers are native English speakers; 2) Less that 5% of Els are taught by an ESL credentialed teacher but over 50% of Els are taught by an El experienced teacher 3) There is little evidence that being assigned to a segregated class or an ESL credentialed teacher impacts math or reading achievement; and 4) There is evidence that being assigned an El experienced teacher has a positive impact on math and reading achievement. Implications from this study include that policy makers in new immigrant destinations should focus on strengthening the English as a Second Language credentialing process, providing more hand-on training for teachers of Els, helping Els reclassify as English proficient before they reach middle school, and supporting schools where Els comprise a small proportion of the population.