Dual language classrooms provide English language learners (ELLs) an opportunity to receive instruction
in their native language in hopes of easing the transition to English fluency, and provide
an opportunity for native English speakers to receive instruction in a second language. For ELLs,
learning in their native language could improve achievement by helping them build a stronger foundation
in core subjects, but could also have a negative impact through delayed growth in English
skills. For native English speakers, communication barriers could hurt achievement, but many argue
that mental stimulation from speaking two languages leads to greater cognitive growth. Empirical
testing for the e↵ect of dual language education on academic achievement is necessary to inform the
debate on the practice of dual language education, and to inform policymakers and practitioners on
practices for assimilating students with non-English dominant languages. I examine dual language
education and student achievement using school choice lotteries from Charlotte-Mecklenburg School
District, finding local average treatment e↵ects on math and reading exam scores of more than 0.06
standard deviations per year for participants who were eligible for English second language (ESL)
services or designated limited English proficient (LEP). There is also some evidence that attending a
dual language school led to a lower probability of having limited English proficient status starting in
third grade. For applicants who were not eligible for ESL services or designated as LEP, attending
a dual language school resulted in higher end of grade exam scores of about 0.09 and 0.05 standard
deviations per year in math and reading, respectively.
Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage
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