Examination of Identification and Placement Decisions Made for K–12 English Learners

WCER Working Paper No. 2018-12

Ahyoung Alicia Kim, Daniella Molle, Jason Kemp, and H. Gary Cook


October 2018, 25 pp.

ABSTRACT: High-stakes decisions are often made for English learners in the K–12 context based on their performance on English language proficiency assessments. Although states and districts provide guidelines for making such decisions, little is known regarding how educators actually make decisions at the district and school levels. Understanding these decisions is important as they often have significant consequences. In addition, evidence regarding the decisions is necessary to support validity claims made regarding the use of the assessments. This study examines how K–12 educators identify and place English learners in language instruction educational programs. These educators serve ELs in different capacities, including district coordinators, instructional coaches, administrators, teachers, and counselors. Participants were sampled from 35 U.S. states, using stratified random sampling. A total of 476 educators (207 district-level and 269 school-level educators) completed an online survey on EL identification and placement. Findings reveal information regarding (1) educators who make decisions about English learner identification and placement, (2) instruments and information sources used for decision making, and (3) educators’ perceived appropriateness of the decisions. Results provide practical implications for improving the English learner identification and placement decision at the district and school levels.

Full Paper

keywords: K–12 English learners, identification of English learners, placement of English learners, decisions for English learners, Assessment Use Argument