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Trend Watch: Push-In Instead of Pull-Out


Northfield School District in Minnesota is one more school district deciding to have English-as-a-second-language teachers work with English-learners in their regular classes rather than pulling them out of class for specialized instruction, according to a June 18 article in the community's local newspaper, Northfield News. (Hat tip to TESOL in the News.)

Gary Lewis, the school district's director of student services, pitched a plan to the Northfield school board to improve services to the district's 278 ELLs after the district went into "program improvement" under the No Child Left Behind Act. It had failed to make adequate yearly progress for the subgroup of ELLs, the article says. Under the plan, the school district has increased the number of full-time ESL teachers to three from one and decided to replace its practice at the elementary level of having teachers take ELLs out of class for special help with a "push-in" model, where ESL teachers go into regular classes to work with ELLs.

Mr. Lewis is quoted as saying that research supports a push-in model over a pull-out one. Frankly, I can see why ELLs weren't doing well if the school district had only one ESL teacher for 278 ELLs. That kind of teacher-student ratio didn't permit the teacher to give each child much help. (June 23 Update: I spoke with Gary Lewis today. I misunderstand what the article said about the number of ESL teachers in the school district. Mr. Lewis said the district has had nearly 7 full-time ESL teachers and is increasing that number by hiring two additional teachers for the coming school year.)

More school districts are replacing pull-out ESL with push-in ESL according to anecdotal evidence that crosses my desk. See my earlier post, "Wisconsin Schools: Moving Away from ESL Pull-Out Programs."


The elementary school where I taught in DC called Push-In Inclusion and it did not work for me, especially since I would have two or three ELLS in each class.

What was worse is that I taught upper elementary and lower elementary so lesson planning time was a nighmare, especially having to collaborate with five general education teachers, 1 special education teacher, and five ESL teachers that taught different grade levels.

Newcomers definitely should be pulled out to acquire academic English faster.

What would work better is to require general eduation teachers to obtain an ESOL credential.

I think this muddles the teaching of content and the teaching of language. SIOP is for content instruction. Don't students also need instruction in the English language?

Also, I am not sure push-in IS a successful model. I have been in hundreds of classrooms across multiple states and observed the dis-functionality of ESL push-in. Its success (for teaching ELLs content) seems to depend on many factors:
teacher personality/disposition
skills in teaming
time for planning
range of ELLs
I would like to find the research that supports ELL push-in. If anyone knows a good reference, please contact me.

Thanks so much.

Zoe Ann

I believe the labels 'push in' and pull out' obscure the real issue, which is who is teaching what and through what methodology. If the ESL teacher is in the classroom because she is engaged in genuine co-teaching of the entire class using appropriately differentiated content lessons, that's effective content instruction (but insufficient English language instruction). If, on the other hand, she is positioned next to 1-2 ELLs because she is expected to do some whispered on-the-spot accomodation of a non-differentiated lesson, then what a disservice to those ELLs.

Effective instruction of ELLs requires both appropriately accomodated content instruction by a teacher trained to differentiate for cultural and linguistic diversity AND ESL classes for regular, systematic instruction in academic English. Simply putting ESL teachers into the classroom is no assurance that either of those is taking place.

Rita Macdonald's comments clarify the issue and I heartily agree with her. I have co-taught ESL with mainstream teachers who willing and able to work with ELLs. Students, not just the ELLs, benefitted enormously. I have also whispered in the corner. One mainstream teacher ordered "no talking" during the large amounts of time students were to doing worksheets. Pull-outs, likewise can be very effective or useless and stigmatizing. Teachers need to be well prepared and then given the flexibilty to choose the best options for their students.

I am soon going to be teaching with the push-in model, I am a new teacher and I need some advice on this model! Does anyone have any useful books, links, or words of wisdom to impart before I begin the school year?

I'm 1st year pre-school ESL. I have prepared different lessons and activities for my students to practice and learn vocab words and skills that will help them adjust to the environment. Especially those going to Kinder.
The principal asked me to just stay in tehir classrooms, so I have been manageing my activities around the class's center time. A teacher just asked me to pull out the kids to do my activities or if I want to stay in the classroom, to work with them at the centers because some other kids want to join in but they can't. That is probably a sign I'm doing something right. The thing is that fluent english speakers take the spotlight if they were to be included. I'm triying the centers today keeping ELL goals in mind, but so far the kids don't talk to me, they play. The english speakers come over and want to play with me anyway.
Does anyone have an idea about how I can make the pre-school push in center time effective?

I teach Pre-K through 5th ELL and use a push in and pull out model. In the Preschool the teachers and I have developed a literacy center program. The students rotate to the teacher myself and a parapro. There are 3 different things that are accomplished all relating to the same theme. We have kept the EL's together and also separated them. I often work with others in the classroom. Once a week I am in their class and once a week I pull the students and work on other areas.

Zoe Ann Brown has it right (see above comment). The idea of 'push-in' very much muddles together the teaching of English and content. I can appreciate that we are to use relevant material that is grade and age level appropriate, but is it really relevant to be trying to teach a newcomer with a 5th grade science book as a source-text for English learning? This is often the way 'push in' is interpreted.

Administrators and ivory tower types need to realize that newcomers and beginning level ELLs need a period of adjustment and then focused English instruction if they are to get a quick start on success in their new-language based classes.

I'm a principal and ELL supervisor for the Belleville, N.J. school district.....We just started a k-2 literacy initiatve and my ELL teachers were told they must push-in to satisfy the reading initiative..however, they need to be in compliance with ELL guidelines as well for our high intensity ELL program..When they go in to work with the regular ed. teachers, does that satisfy the requirement for the 2 periods per day, even if they're not servicing those specific ELL students? I've been told that as long as the ELLs are in the room, it's o.k. I've also been told that even if there are no Ells in the classroom they are still in compliance, since they're pushing in....I've reached out to the DOE and am still awaiting a response to these questions...i just don't want my ELL teachers to shortchange their own students in order to satisfy the requirements for the literacy initiative

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