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Study: How to Ensure ELLs Aren't Sidelined in a District

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The Council of the Great City Schools released this week a report that offers a composite description for district policies that support strong achievement among English-language learners.

Districts with strong schooling for ELLs—based on a close look at Dallas, San Francisco, New York City, and St. Paul, Minn.—provide strong oversight from the central office for educating those students, make sure that general education teachers as well as specialists receive training on how to work with ELLs, and analyze student data to improve instruction for that group of students. I write about the study in an article published this week on edweek.org.

But what I didn't mention in my article is details about the individual school districts that were used to produce the model composite. The snapshots of the four school districts deemed to be successful with ELLs have some interesting information about why the researchers believed that to be the case.

For example, a three-decade-old desegregation case against the Dallas Independent School District could be credited, in part, for providing a foundation for the education of minorities in the district, including ELLs, the report says. ELLs were explicitly included in a comprehensive desegregation plan for the district.

The report attributes the push in San Francisco to improve programs for ELLs, in part, to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Lau v. Nichols, based in San Francisco and decided in 1974. The case required the district to take steps to provide ELLs with equal access to the general curriculum.

I've visited and written about ELLs in New York City and St. Paul, two of the four districts featured in the report.

1 Comment

What I like about this study is that it acknowledges that our ELL population is no different than Special Ed or Gifted. All need strategies that meet their needs, and those come through the system/organization – not just the classroom teacher. I also appreciated the comment that our ELL students need access to regular curriculum. If they are never taught the curriculum, how can we (and why do we) hold them accountable for it? A basic tenet is to test what is taught. I also found it interesting that even the exemplary schools are still struggling with students who have been in the country for seven or more years and yet still are not fluent. I have had this student in my classroom. What are we missing? Why are we not able to help them make more progress?

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