Blog: Latino Ed Beat

English Language Learners with More Educated Mothers Fare Better on Assessments

New longitudinal data released by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that regardless of whether a child begins kindergarten as an English language learner or not, children with the most highly educated mothers generally score best on math, reading and science assessments as eighth-graders.

In addition, children who spoke English as their dominant language or began kindergarten proficient in English despite the language spoken in their homes performed better as eighth-graders on the three subject tests than students who began kindergarten with limited English skills.

In the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, NCES tracked a sample of the kindergarten class of 1998-99 through eighth grade, and found that about 12 percent of the children surveyed spoke a language other than English at home. The majority –but not all–of ELLs in the study came from Spanish-speaking homes.

English language learners whose mothers had a bachelor’s degree or higher and who reached English proficiency by spring of their kindergarten year scored  better on math and reading exams as eighth-graders than children whose mothers had less than a high school education.

Hispanic children with limited English skills were more likely to be living in poverty with less-educated mothers. Those children took longer to reach English proficiency and struggled more with assessments.

According to the April report, about 59 percent of ELLs who were not English proficient by spring of their kindergarten year had a mother with less than a high school education. Just three percent of ELLS who were not proficient by kindergarten had a mother with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

For comparison, 35 percent of ELLS who were English proficient by spring had mothers with less than a high school education and 17 percent had mothers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The study defined English proficiency based on children’s scores on the Oral Language Development Scale, which measures listening comprehension, vocabulary and ability to understand and produce language. The report cautions that English proficiency as defined in the study may differ from how a school defines proficiency due to different methods used.

The report is pretty data-heavy; you can view it here.

The message is that a mother’s education level is very important to determining a child’s future educational success. What sorts of programs in your community are trying to better educate Spanish-speaking mothers so their children are more prepared for kindergarten?