Comparison of Expulsion Rates Reveals Bias Against ELLs

ThinkstockPhotos-179124040A new study from the Regional Education Laboratory Northwest found that English language learners (ELLs) are suspended and expelled at a higher rate than native English speakers. The study took place at six Oregon school districts and also discovered a correlation between ELLs who were suspended or expelled and substantially lower test scores. “Parents and educators nationwide have grown increasingly concerned over reports that schools discipline some groups of students more than others,” said REL Northwest’s Art Burke, lead author of the study. “Particularly worrisome is discipline that removes children from their classrooms for extended periods of time.”

The study also looks at the number of instructional days lost by ELLs because of disciplinary actions and the rates at which they met standards for proficiency on state assessments in reading and math. ELLs and non-ELLs were suspended for similar numbers of days in elementary school and middle school. In high school, however, ELLs were suspended for nearly a full day more than non-ELLs. Additionally, ELLs who were suspended or expelled had substantially lower achievement on state assessments in reading and math than ELLs who were not subject to exclusionary discipline. “The findings shed light on disciplinary practices in a group of Oregon districts with a growing number of English learner students and could help inform policy and practice decisions,” said Burke. “Other states and localities may wish to conduct similar comparisons of suspension and expulsion rates for English learner students and non-English learner students.”

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