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Academic Language Complexity and Language-Minority Students' Performance in Mathematics: Differential Effects for Different Grades?

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This study investigates the effects of academic language demands for 126 mathematics test items for 28,812 third and fourth grade students in Germany. We tested whether the effects differed between grade levels and between language minority students and monolingual German speakers, controlling for students’ socioeconomic status (SES). The results indicate that in third grade, both language minority students and German monolinguals are struggling with academic language demands. By fourth grade, this disadvantage has disappeared for German monolinguals and weakened for language minority students. The performance gap between language minority students and German monolinguals is larger in fourth grade than in third grade. Students with low SES are not differentially disadvantaged by the academic language demands.