Texas is the home to a fifth of English learners in the US, and the number of English Learners in the state has grown from 30,000 in 2010 to over 1.1 million. As a result, the English Learner population in Texas charter schools has quintupled over the same period, rising from under 25,000 in 2010 to nearly 120,000 in 2021. These numbers are found in the introduction to “Charter Schools and English Learners in the Lone Star State,” a recent study published with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Researchers Deven Carlson and David Griffith of Oklahoma University set out to look into outcomes for English Learners who enroll in public charter schools compared to those served by traditional public schools.
Based on their data, Griffith and Carlson conclude that:
- Charter schools now enroll a disproportionate share of Texas’s English learners.
- Compared to their traditional public school peers, English Learners in Texas’s charter schools make more progress in reading but slightly less progress in math.
- Compared to their traditional public school peers, English Learners in Texas’s charters are more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college, earning more money in the post-college years.
- As Texas’s charter sector has expanded, English Learners’ reading gains have remained relatively consistent, but their math gains have fluctuated.
Based on these findings, Griffith and Carlson conclude that English Learners in Texas benefit from attending charter schools. “We have reason to be optimistic about the growing number of English Learners served by charter schools,” they say, with the caveat that “in Texas, as elsewhere, the charter school movement will not meet its goals unless the rapid expansion is paired with appropriate accountability and funding.”
Along with the proper financial support, schools can benefit from sharing what works and doesn’t when serving these students. In the recent “Charter Schools and English Learners” webinar, educators shared what has worked in their schools. The panel also heard from a charter-educated EL student from Brazil, who shared his experience and what helped him most. You can watch that webinar on demand here.
By working together and ensuring the right resources and support, we can continue to improve educational outcomes for English Learners in Texas and beyond.