Exploratory Evidence on the Factors that Relate to Elementary School Science Learning Gains Among English Language Learners

This project will provide evidence on how school, classroom, teacher, and student factors shape elementary school science learning trajectories for English learners (ELs). The project will broaden ELs’ participation in STEM learning by investigating how individual, classroom, and school level situations such as instructional practices, learning environments, and characteristics of school personnel relate to EL elementary school science learning.

Full Description: 

The nation’s schools are growing in linguistic and cultural diversity, with students identified as English learners (ELs) comprising more than ten percent of the student population. Unfortunately, existing research suggests that ELs lag behind other students in science achievement, even in the earliest grades of school. This project will provide evidence on how school, classroom, teacher, and student factors shape elementary school science learning trajectories for ELs. The project will broaden ELs’ participation in STEM learning by investigating how individual, classroom, and school level situations (inputs) such as instructional practices, learning environments, and characteristics of school personnel relate to EL elementary school science learning. Specifically, this study explores (1) a series of science inputs (time on science, content covered, availability of lab resources, and teacher training in science instruction), and (2) EL-specific inputs (classroom language use, EL instructional models, teacher certification and training, and the availability of EL support staff), in relation to ELs’ science learning outcomes from a national survey.

This study provides a comprehensive analysis of English learners’ (ELs) science learning in the early grades and the English learner instructional inputs and science instructional inputs that best predict early science outcomes (measured by both standardized science assessments and teacher-rated measures of science skills). The study uses the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K:2011) and employs a regression framework with latent class analysis to identify promising inputs that promote early science learning for ELs. Conceptually, rather than viewing the school-based inputs in isolation, the study explores how they combine to enhance students’ science learning trajectories. The study addresses the following research questions: How do science test performance trajectories vary across and within EL student groups in elementary school? How do access to school, teacher, and classroom level science and EL inputs vary across and within EL student groups in elementary school? Which school, teacher, and classroom level science and EL inputs are predictive of greater science test performance gains and teacher-rated science skills in elementary school? Are the relationships among these school, teacher, and classroom level inputs and student test performance and teacher-rated science skills different for subgroups of EL students, particularly by race/ethnicity or by immigration status? Are there particular combinations of school, teacher, and classroom level inputs that are predictive of science learning gains (test scores and teacher-rated skills) for ELs as compared to students more broadly?