One in five school-age children in the United States speaks a lan- guage other than English at home (Camarota & Zeigler, 2015). Roughly half of these emerging
bilingual students (Garcia, 2009) are classified as
English language learners (ELLs) when they enter
school, meaning they do not meet state or district
criteria for English proficiency (Kena et al., 2015).
As the fastest-growing official subgroup of students, ELLs are transforming schools across the
country, in cities as well as in suburban and rural
communities, in traditional immigrant-receiving
areas as well as in new immigrant destinations.
These students bring with them important assets
that can enrich and strengthen schools (González,
Moll, & Amanti, 2013).
But questions persist about how best to ensure
that ELLS can thrive academically, linguistically,
and socially. Should ELLs be taught in bilingual
classrooms that promote fluency in their home lan-
guage and ensure access to core academic content
while they develop English language skills? Or
should they be taught in English immersion class-
rooms to maximize their exposure to English? How
can we ensure that emerging bilingual students
develop English proficiency and strong academic
skills while they maintain and develop literacy in
their home language?
Over the past several years, we’ve been working
closely with staff members in a large California
school district to explore these questions. This
district uses four different instructional models
for English language learners: English immersion,
transitional bilingual, maintenance bilingual, and
dual immersion. We investigated how ELLs fared
A 12-year study compares how
Ilana M. Umansky, Rachel A. Valentino, and Sean F. Reardon
English language learners fare in English immersion,
bilingual, and dual immersion programs.