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High School Graduation Rates Across English Learner Student Subgroups in Arizona

By Min Huang, Eric Haas, Niufeng Zhu, Loan Tran


Policymakers and educators working to close the achievement gap between English language learner students and their non-English language learner peers look at high school graduation as a key student outcome. However, few studies differentiate among English language learner students at different stages of the learning process.

This report, produced by REL West’s English Learner Alliance, examines five English language learner student groups in the state of Arizona and provides empirical evidence suggesting targeted supports for this diverse group of students.

Key Findings

  • Long-term English language learner students* had the lowest observed four-year graduation rate (49 percent) among five English language learner student subgroups, and never–English learner students** had the highest (85 percent)
  • The earlier that English language learner students achieved English proficiency, the higher their graduation rate
  • Academic achievement before entering high school, rather than student demographic characteristics, explained most of the differences in graduation rates across English language learner student subgroups and may have been a key factor driving graduation outcomes
  • Long-term English language learner students and new English language learner students had the most difficulty graduating within four years of entering grade 9

By describing the variation in high school graduation rates across these subgroups, this report may help educators and education policymakers more effectively promote the college and career readiness of current and former English language learner students, and at various stages of English proficiency, through better targeted supports.

* English language learner students who have been enrolled in a U.S. school for six years or more and have not been reclassified as fluent English proficient.

** Students who were either never classified as English language learner students in Arizona or who were early English speakers who had been reclassified as fluent English proficient in Arizona prior to grade 2.


Resource Details

Product Information

Format: PDF
Pages: 31
Publisher: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences