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Trend Watch: Push-In ESL in Indiana


News reports keep trickling in about school districts that are moving toward having English-as-a-second-language teachers work with English-language learners in mainstream classrooms, often called "push-in ESL," rather than pulling students out of class for special help.

The Evansville Vanderburgh school district in Indiana put in place last school year the push-in model at three elementary schools, according to a July 20 article published in the Evansville Courier & Press (I picked this up from Colorin colorado). An Indiana professor is quoted as saying that pulling English-language learners out of class is "the least effective" model for helping them.

But I've found that it's hard to come up with research that backs that conclusion. And some educators who have tried the push-in approach have commented on this blog they don't like it.


Mary Ann,

There are two issues here. 1) Is there research demonstrating that pull-out ESL is the least effective method of educating ELLs? (Yes)* 2) Is there research demonstrating that push-in ESL is effective? (not as much but my colleague Kris Anstrom has done some). But I would also add: it depends.

Like anything else in education, the way push-in is implemented will make a big difference in how effective it is. Push-in requires team-teaching between an ESL teacher and a general ed teacher. This is a lot harder to do than teaching by yourself in your own classroom.

The first team-teaching efforts began between special ed and general ed as a means of achieving inclusion for students with disabilities. It has had mixed success for both sped and ESL, possibly because it opens up all kinds of issues, e.g., the differential status that often occurs between ESL (or sped) and general ed, and to some extent there may be issues of territoriality, etc.

One of the keys to success is good professional development for both groups of teachers. Saint Paul, MN has done some good work in this area. (The resource below may have been updated since I last looked.)

Saint Paul Public Schools. 2003. English Language Learners: Language Proficiency - Strong Foundations. In 2003-04 Staff Handbook. St. Paul, MN: Author.

Sakash, Karen, and Flora V. Rodriguez-Brown. 1995. Teamworks: Mainstream and bilingual/ESL teacher collaboration. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.

* Research for question #1:
Thomas, Wayne P., and Virginia P. Collier. 1997. School effectiveness for language minority students. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.

In the course of doing my job as a consultant, I visit a lot of schools, some with Push-in programs. There is little research to support this methodology, but also, you can just walk in and see that in most cases, the ESL teacher ends up being a glorified ParaProfessional or Teacher Aide, just doing some vocabulary at the beginning of the class, taking attendance and enforcing rules. It is the rare pairing that has a truly balanced team-teaching approach, and I've only seen it work when the ELLs are a small subset of the whole group (for small group activities with the ESL teacher) or when the entire group is fairly advanced in English (Intermediate level or so). Even so, it takes training of the content area or grade level teacher on the ESL fundamentals and a willingness to give the ESL teacher more of a role than many "mainstream" teachers are willing or able to grant.

Hello! I am researching the ESL program practice of ESL teachers pushing in to regular ed. classes as opposed to co-teaching and the effectiveness in ELLs' acquisition of both language and content. This article and others related to this topic have been interesting. As a consultant, I find the push-in model to have little instructional value, so I am writing my dissertation on this topic so that I can better inform my client schools.
Does anyone have good, reliable research sources on this topic?

Hello Euginia,

I am interested in the research you are doing. Did you finish it? Is there any way you can share some of oyour findings with us? I would love to have a copy of your desertation unless you post it on line.


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