English learners reclassification and academic achievement: Evidence from Minnesota

Masayuki Onda*, Edward Seyler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Providing appropriate learning environments for students who are not native English speakers is an important element of ensuring equal access to education for students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. This study evaluates the process for reclassifying English learner (EL) students as English proficient. Exploiting the threshold-based reclassification policy in Minnesota, we use a regression discontinuity design to recover counterfactuals— how much would EL students who were not reclassified due to the reclassification policy have improved in academic achievement had they been reclassified? We find that reclassification had no discernible effect on math and reading scores for 3rd-grade EL students, while reclassification increased the math scores of 6th-grade EL students. Our subgroup analysis finds that the positive effects of reclassification mostly depend on the large estimates in the first-year cohort of EL students. Taken altogether, these results imply that reclassification was unlikely to harm the 3rd- and 6th-grade EL students.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102043
JournalEconomics of Education Review
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec


  • English learners
  • Nonrandom selection
  • Regression discontinuity designs
  • Resource allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Economics and Econometrics


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