Ilana Umansky

Institution: University of Oregon

Ilana Umansky's work focuses on quantitative and longitudinal analysis of the educational opportunities and outcomes of immigrant students, multilingual students, and students classified in school as English learners (ELs). She studies key EL policies including identification, service provision, and reclassification, focusing on issues of stratification and opportunity. Her work has explored EL course-taking and access to core academic content, the effects of the EL classification system, teacher perceptions of EL-classified students, and how educational outcomes vary for students in different linguistic instructional environments. She often works in partnership with districts and states including projects with San Francisco Unified, Salem-Keizer School District, the Utah State Board of Education, the Oregon Department of Education, and the Council of Chief State School Officers, as they work to improve educational opportunities for their EL students. Prior to getting her Ph.D. at Stanford University in Sociology of Education and Race, Inequality and Language in Education, Umansky worked in educational equity and quality research in Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, and other countries in Latin America. Her work has been awarded by the National Academy of Education, the Spencer Foundation, the Jacobs Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the American Educational Research Association's Bilingual Education Special Interest Group. Her work has been published in the American Educational Research JournalJournal of Research on Educational EffectivenessEducational Evaluation and Policy AnalysisEducational Leadership, and Exceptional Children, among other outlets. She frequently also publishes national and state reports and policy briefs aimed at serving and informing educational policymakers.


Ilana Umansky, Taiyo Itoh, Jioanna Carjuzaa.

English learner (EL) education is widely conceived as services for immigrant-origin students, however nearly one in ten American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students are classified in school as ELs. Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) defines EL eligibility differently for Indigenous, compared to non-Indigenous, students with implications for who is identified as an EL and how best to serve their academic and linguistic interests. This study presents findings from a 50-state review of Indigenous EL identification policy. We find that states fall into four categories ranging from no differentiation in Indigenous EL identification to clear differentiation. We describe each of these four categories and conclude with reflections on how this wide variation in state policies has implications for Indigenous students’ educational resources and experiences.

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Ilana Umansky, Karen Thompson, James Soland, Amanda Kibler.

An important subgroup of English learner-classified (EL) students immigrate to the U.S., entering U.S. schools upon their arrival. Using growth models and statewide data, this study asks first, how newcomers’ English proficiency status and growth compare to those of non-newcomer EL students; and second, what characteristics are associated with differences in English language growth patterns among newcomers. We find that newcomers enter school at earlier stages of English proficiency compared to their non-newcomer peers, but grow faster, especially in their first two years. We also find variation in growth patterns suggestive that schools play an important role in fostering growth.

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Ilana Umansky, Manuel Vazquez Cano, Lorna Porter.

Federal law defines eligibility for English learner (EL) classification differently for Indigenous students compared to non-Indigenous students. Indigenous students, unlike non-Indigenous students, are not required to have a non-English home or primary language. A critical question, therefore, is how EL classification impacts Indigenous students’ educational outcomes. This study explores this question for Alaska Native students, drawing on data from five Alaska school districts. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find evidence that among students who score near the EL classification threshold in kindergarten, EL classification has a large negative impact on Alaska Native students’ academic outcomes, especially in the 3rd and 4th grades. Negative impacts are not found for non-Alaska Native students in the same districts.

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Ilana Umansky, Hanna Dumont.

Prior research has shown that EL classification is consequential for students, however, less is known about how EL classification impacts students’ outcomes. In this study, we examine one hypothesized mechanism: teacher perceptions. Using nationally-representative data (ECLS-K:2011), we use coarsened exact matching to estimate the effect of EL status on teachers’ perceptions of students’ skills in language arts, math, science, and social studies in kindergarten through second grade. We further explore whether that impact is moderated by instructional setting (bilingual versus English immersion). We find evidence that EL classification results in lower teacher perceptions across content areas and grade levels. This impact is, however, moderated by bilingual environments. This study adds to research on teacher perceptions and the effects of EL classification. 

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