chapter  2
19 Pages

High School ESL Placement: Practice, Policy, and Eff ects on Achievement

ByRebecca M. Callahan, Dara R. Shifrer

English Learners (ELs)1 in U.S. high schools, i.e., linguistic minority students placed in English as a Second Language (ESL) coursework, must simultaneously master both English and the content areas in order to graduate and successfully enter the postsecondary sphere. While ESL coursework generally focuses on language development, content area coursework can be modifi ed to address language learning needs as well (Chamot & O’Malley, 1996; Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2007). However, EL achievement levels, as illustrated throughout this volume, are a source of concern for educators, researchers, and policy makers alike. The intersection of English profi ciency and academic stratifi cation lies at the crux of the EL achievement dilemma. ELs not only demonstrate lower levels of achievement than native English speakers but often perform at lower levels compared to their mainstreamed linguistic minority peers. Thus, compared to other linguistic minority students, it is not entirely clear whether adolescent ELs’ achievement is due to diff erences in English profi ciency, other characteristics correlated with academic achievement (e.g., socioeconomic status [SES], student behaviors, and race/ethnicity), other academic experiences infl uenced by identifi cation as EL (e.g., student-teacher relationships, opportunities to learn), or other unmeasured factors.