A teacher sits at a table where elementary school children work, sitting next to her.

News in Brief: Researchers Seek to Better Understand English Learning Students Who Opt Out of EL Services

A new grant will fund the work of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers in partnership with the states of Tennessee and Utah.

Audrey Breen

When a student is identified as an English learner, their parent or guardian is notified of their option to decline the English language support services their student qualifies for, if they wish. However, research on English learners generally does not differentiate between the students who receive EL supports and those who have opted out. A new study led by researchers at the UVA School of Education and Human Development hopes to change that.

With a new $375,000 grant award from the Spencer Foundation, Associate Professor Natalia Palacios and her team will be working to better understand the impacts of the decision to wave English language supports for students identified as qualifying for them. Specifically, the team will be working in Tennessee and Utah to describe how opting in or out of those services relates to students’ placement in special education or their reclassification.

Natalia Palacios
Associate Professor Natalia Palacios

“This multi-state partnership with Tennessee and Utah presents a novel opportunity for research on English learners,” Palacios said. “Our project offers unique insight into this population by investigating the variability within the group by focusing on English learners' receipt of services (i.e., EL service, SPED service), but also across the English learner population between our state partners.”

This project is an idea of Min Oh’s, an EL-VEST postdoctoral fellow, a training grant at the School of Education and Human Development that aims to grow the capacity of rigorous research on English learner student population. The study will be a collaborative effort among a team of multidisciplinary and multigenerational researchers with expertise in bilingualism, language and literacy, psychometrics, and special education, including Bethany Bell, UVA EHD associate professor, and Jeanette Mancilla-Martinez, associate professor at Vanderbilt University.

“By working together, we hope to generate insights that will help identify fair and effective supports to better serve this growing population of students in the U.S.,” said Palacios.