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What Does Sustained Teacher Training for ELLs Look Like?

Educators at Lanier High School in Austin, Texas, credit a professional-development program developed by WestEd as helping teachers to narrow the gap between English-language learners and other students.

The program, Quality Teaching for English Learners, which is starting to get quite a bit of attention nationally, is intended to be high school reform taken up by a whole school, not just the department for English-language learners. Education Week has just published my take on how the QTEL professional development is working out for teachers at Lanier High School as part of a special report on professional development. The special report includes videos and profiles of some teachers, including one who talks about "scaffolding," or supports, for ELLs.

Policymakers checked out how QTEL was working in Austin Independent School District during a study tour, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, last school year. Berkeley Policy Associates is conducting a five-year evaluation of QTEL funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

In the day and a half I spent at Lanier, I observed a number of regular content teachers who seemed earnest and successful in their efforts to make their classes more interactive, to benefit all students as well as ELLs.

I saw a number of examples as well during the half day I spent at Austin's International High School, a school for newcomers, of teachers' implementing QTEL's philosophy that students learn language best through a social context—through interactive lessons in which they get a chance to express their ideas orally and in writing.

But I chose to spend all the ink in my article on Lanier High School because it is a large comprehensive high school and represents a schooling structure that is more typical in this country than the small newcomers' school for ELLs. Educators at comprehensive high schools seem to be crying out for ways to support ELLs to do well academically.

But if you get to Austin, do drop in and see how QTEL is playing out at the International High School, which I viewed as a hothouse for implementation of QTEL because teachers at that school have no choice but to figure out what works for ELLs. All of their students are ELLs.

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