From the Field

English Learner Labeling and Teacher Perceptions

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Research has demonstrated that being classified as an English Learner (EL) affects student outcomes and experiences in school. However, less is known about how EL classification affects teachers’ perceptions of student skills. To better understand this, Ilana Umansky and Hanna Dumont analyzed a nationally representative, federally collected dataset (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study), which included teachers’ perceptions of students’ academic skills and knowledge between kindergarten through second grade.

Their results are outlined in English Learner Labeling: How English Learner Status Shapes Teacher Perceptions of Student Skills & the Moderating Role of Bilingual Instructional Settings. Through a statistical analysis, they find that being classified as an English Learner is associated with negative teachers’ perceptions of about a quarter of a standard deviation across four content areas: language arts, math, science, and social studies. But this effect can be moderated by bilingual environments. This study does not analyze how such perceptions affect student academic outcomes, which is an important area for future research.