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Effects of Elementary School Home Language, Immigrant Generation, Language Classification, and School’s English Learner Concentration on Latinos’ High School Completion


by Maria Estela Zarate & Claudia G. Pineda — 2014

Background/Context: Relying largely on high school measures of home language use, the literature examining immigrant incorporation in schools provides contradictory evidence of home language effects on educational outcomes. More recent research has demonstrated that home language use is dynamic and thus it is important to examine the implications of elementary school home language, as opposed to the typically used high school home language, as a factor influencing various school processes. We argue that it is also necessary to take into account school-related language contexts when considering the experiences of Latino immigrant students.

Purpose: This study investigates the effects of early acculturation, measured by elementary school language, immigrant generation, and early linguistic experiences on high school completion.

Research Design: Using hierarchical generalized linear models, we test the effects of elementary home language, immigrant generation, early language classification, and middle school concentration of English Learners (EL) on the probability of high school completion for a cohort of Latino students in a large urban school district (N = 26,487).

Findings: Consistent with some of the existing research, this study finds that speaking Spanish at home in the elementary school years has positive effects on high school completion. Moreover, for Spanish speakers, having been reclassified as English-fluent before sixth grade and having attended middle schools with lower concentrations of EL students increases the probability of high school completion.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that taking into account earlier schooling processes and contexts in discussions about the influence of home language on academic achievement broaden the scope of accountability for educating immigrant students.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 2, 2014, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17340, Date Accessed: 10/21/2017 2:34:27 AM

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About the Author
  • Maria Zarate
    California State University, Fullerton
    E-mail Author
    MARIA ESTELA ZARATE is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at California State University Fullerton where she teaches research methods in the doctoral program. She is past Director of Educational Policy Research at the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute where she directed educational policy research. Her areas of interest and expertise are equitable access to higher education, the educational trajectory of Latino students, language issues faced by immigrant students, and gender differences in schooling experiences. She has documented gender differences as predictors to college enrollment in the Harvard Educational Review and most recently addresses the challenges facing the preparation of Latino youth for college in the Journal of College Admissions.
  • Claudia Pineda
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    CLAUDIA G. PINEDA is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Education at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, where she teaches research methods. Her research interests include the role of context and culture on the psychosocial and educational development of Latino immigrant youth and the processes leading to their positive adaptation. She has coauthored two encyclopedia chapters: “Students at Risk” in the Encyclopedia of Education and Human Development, and “Culture and Education” in the Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology. She was a researcher at the University of California, Irvine, and a visiting scholar at the Latin American Studies Program at Cornell University. She obtained her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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