Information Brief 2012-12

Academic Growth Patterns from EXPLORE (Grade 8) to the ACT (Grade 11 or 12) for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities

A recent ACT study examined academic growth patterns for English language learners (ELL) and students with disabilities, based on college readiness assessments from grade 8 to 12.1 With a few exceptions, students in these subgroups grew less than did general education students. However, most of the academic growth differences were small.

  • In mathematics, ELL students grew nearly ¾ of a point more than their general education peers; students in the Other disability subgroup grew over half a point less.
  • In English, students in special education programs (SPED) grew nearly a full point less than their general education peers. Thus, students in special education programs grew about 16% less than the reference group in English.

Value-Added Average Growth from EXPLORE to the ACT for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities2

SubjectGroupMean Value-added ScoreStandard Error of the Mean
EnglishELL–.400.08
EnglishSPED–.920.05
EnglishAny Disability–.370.05
EnglishPhysical Disability–.220.10
EnglishCognitive Disability–.400.06
EnglishOther Disability–.380.09
ReadingELL–.270.08
ReadingSPED–.200.05
ReadingAny Disability–.170.05
ReadingPhysical Disability–.240.12
ReadingCognitive Disability–.110.07
ReadingOther Disability–.270.10
MathematicsELL.680.07
MathematicsSPED–.120.04
MathematicsAny Disability–.330.04
MathematicsPhysical Disability–.160.09
MathematicsCognitive Disability–.280.05
MathematicsOther Disability–.580.08
ScienceELL.000.07
ScienceSPED–.360.05
ScienceAny Disability–.220.04
SciencePhysical Disability–.190.10
ScienceCognitive Disability–.160.06
ScienceOther Disability–.410.09

Note: Based on data from 103,725 high school graduates of 2011 who took EXPLORE in grade 8 and the ACT in grade 11 or 12. It is important to note that the ELL, SPED, and disability groups are not mutually exclusive—students could be members of more than one of these groups.


1 Bassiri, D & Allen, J. (2012) Grade 8 to 12 Academic Growth Patterns for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. (ACT Research Report No. 2012 (1)). Iowa City, IA: ACT, Inc.

2 Graph reads: Between grades 8 and 11 or 12, ELL students grew 0.68 points more in mathematics than their general education peers.

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