Exploring Longitudinal Outcomes and Trajectories of English Language Learners

Note: This WestEd project was completed in 2016.


This researcher-practitioner partnership between the Quality Teaching for English Learners initiative at WestEd and the Fort Worth (TX) Independent School District investigated how to better support secondary immigrant newcomers academically, socially, and emotionally. The partnership generated research questions, conducted analyses, and interpreted and applied results to inform policy.

The Exploring Longitudinal Outcomes and Trajectories of English Learners partnership grew out of a sustained collaboration with the International Newcomer Academy, where all newcomers attend for one year before enrolling in language programs hosted at comprehensive secondary schools. The district partners wanted to know more about students’ longitudinal outcomes.

The first phase of research was a retrospective study of early warning indicators for ninth grade newcomers. By compiling a longitudinal database, the partnership calculated graduation rates and identified campuses with high levels of academic success.

The second phase of research was a qualitative study of two campuses, focused on identifying academic and social-emotional supports. Through observations, focus groups, and interviews, researchers identified categories of promising formal and informal supports associated with newcomer success.

Research Findings

  • Absences more strongly predicted not graduating for newcomers than other students
  • Newcomers benefited from formal academic supports including programs (e.g., college advising) and classroom supports (e.g., a focus on disciplinary language)
  • Newcomer students reported needing more formal social-emotional programs

Based on the research studies, the partnership coauthored two policy briefs for districts and schools in general. These briefs provide recommendations for tracking outcomes of secondary newcomers, and for assessing and improving the supports that schools provide.