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High School Course-Taking Patterns for English Language Learners: A Case Study From California

By Neal Finkelstein, Tony Fong, Min Huang


Research shows that English language learners’ chances of meeting college preparatory requirements increase with early access to college preparatory coursework in high school. This research brief, prepared by WestEd researchers for the National High School Center, suggests that academic support programs that assist English language learners in meeting those requirements are critical to improving college readiness and college-going patterns.

Key findings of this report include:

  • Measured at both the end of the 9th grade and at the end of the 12th grade, greater percentages of English language learners were off track to meet college requirements compared to their non-English language learner peers.
  • Students who were identified as English language learners early in high school (9th grade) had a better chance of being on track to meet college requirements compared to those identified later in high school (10th grade or beyond).
  • Based on the sample analyzed, by the time English language learners complete high school, the majority will not be able to matriculate to a 4-year public university in California without remediation.

Authors Neal Finkelstein, Min Huang, and Tony Fong conclude that the college-going patterns of English language learners will not change dramatically unless students have access to, and success completing, college preparatory coursework early in high school. Attention to the progress of English language learners in both language proficiency and academic proficiency before they reach high school is essential to improving these long-term educational outcomes.

This research brief follows a report originally produced by WestEd researchers for REL West, Course-Taking Patterns and Preparation for Postsecondary Education in California’s Public University Systems Among Minority Youth (PDF).

Resource Details

Product Information

Copyright: 2009
Format: PDF
Pages: 14
Publisher: National High School Center