Unlocking Educational Opportunities: State Policies Supporting English Learner Success
Caroline Bartlett

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Michigan State University

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Our nation's nearly five million English learner-classified (EL) students face significant educational disparities resulting from inadequate attention to their needs within current policies and practices. Previous research highlights inequities ELs face in their schools and classrooms. Less has focused on ways broader education policies exacerbate or ameliorate such inequities. My dissertation focuses on ways states and school districts can use policy inputs to expand educational opportunities for ELs as we emerge from the COVID-19 Pandemic. In the first paper, I explore the effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on subgroups of ELs’ academic and linguistic outcomes in Michigan. Findings can inform state and district leaders as they develop policies for serving ELs in coming years. The second paper uses a difference-in-regression discontinuities design to investigate the impact of shifting default reclassification policy from district to state responsibility on eligible ELs’ reclassification outcomes. I discuss heterogeneity in effects by students’ home languages, immigration status, and district characteristics to assess the viability of default policy to reduce disparities in reclassification outcomes based on race, ethnicity, language, or other factors unrelated to English proficiency. The third paper leverages interview and document analysis to understand how district leaders interpret state school finance policy and develop local policy to allocate resources and serve ELs in financially constrained environments. As the EL population continues to grow nationwide, my dissertation will contribute evidence on policies that affect EL students' short- and long-term outcomes, identifying areas states and school districts can expand educational opportunities for their EL students.
About Caroline Bartlett
Caroline Bartlett is a PhD student in Education Policy and K-12 Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Her research uses quantitative and qualitative methods to understand how education policies enhance or constrain educational opportunities for historically underserved groups of students, with a particular focus on multilingual students classified as English learners (ELs). Her dissertation research evaluates various policy inputs that state education agencies can implement to increase EL students’ access to rigorous educational opportunities, including EL reclassification procedures and state school finance policies for EL education. Other current work includes an ongoing collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education, where she explores ML-ELs’ access to career and technical education coursework and is producing Michigan’s first ML-EL State of the State Report. Her research has been published in Educational Administration Quarterly and Language Policy. Prior to beginning her studies at Michigan State University, Caroline worked as an English as a Second Language and English teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education and teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Arizona and a Master of Public Administration from Texas A&M University.

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