Peeling Back the Label: Studies of Educational Opportunity Among Students Learning English
Ilana Umansky

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Stanford University

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
English learner (EL) students are the fastest growing subgroup of students but are also amongst the lowest performing. Some of their underperformance is attributable to compounding disadvantages, often including lack of English proficiency, poverty, adjusting to a new country, and low parental education levels. But research also suggests that ELs may face barriers to educational opportunity within school. This second set of factors is directly malleable by schools, districts, and states. Adjusting these services and treatments may improve ELs? educational outcomes. Using advanced quantitative methods, this dissertation examines how different malleable aspects of schooling impact ELs? educational trajectories. In particular, it examines EL classification, linguistic instructional program, reclassification from EL status into mainstream status, class placement, and access to academic content. Comprised of three main chapters the dissertation answers questions that are urgent for education policy and practice. Chapter one uses event history analysis to trace students? linguistic, academic, and reclassification trajectories in four distinct linguistic instructional programs. Chapter two employs regression discontinuity to measure the causal impact of EL status on students? access to academic content and courses, as well as the mechanisms that drive this relationship. Chapter three uses regression discontinuity in a growth model framework to estimate the causal impact of EL status on students? long-term academic outcomes, again examining mechanisms and mediating factors. This dissertation contributes to sociological literature on education and immigration, as well as offers insights into policy and practice mechanisms that can improve the opportunities and outcomes of this large and underperforming population.
About Ilana Umansky

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