Helping Principals Support English Learners
Today's post is the practitioner perspective on Monday's post: What Does Postsecondary Success Look Like For English Learners?
Stay tuned: We will follow up with the Cleveland Alliance for Education Research on the research discussed here once findings are available.
Exploring the Problem of Practice Through Research
Over the last 12 years, the population of English learner students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) has doubled, impacting schools' and principals' efforts to support student postsecondary readiness and success. The wide diversity in English learners' backgrounds and the unique challenges they face complicate what is known about indicators of postsecondary success for other students and have implications for instructional approaches schools may want to focus on to best support all students. In order for principals to make good decisions about the instructional approach most appropriate for their school and context, they need information and evidence that is rigorously pursued by experts and specific and informative to their needs.
That is where the Cleveland Alliance for Education Research (CAER) enters the picture. By leveraging the expertise at our partner organizations—American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the Center for Urban Education at Cleveland State University—we at the district are able to connect individual schools with meaningful research that answers the questions district educators are asking. Through working with the Multilingual Multicultural Education department, the partnership learned about the district's pressing research needs around informing practices to support English learners through postsecondary success. In a day-long research agenda setting activity in May 2017, partnership practitioners and researchers worked to identify the most pressing issues and framed their questions in a way that the research partners were most poised to assist. Monday's blog post outlines the specific research questions we are now pursuing.
Use of Research Findings in Practice
Once the research is completed, it will help the district better understand the population of English learner students, their patterns of postsecondary readiness and success, and how traditional benchmarks related to postsecondary success (such as grade point average, college entrance examination scores, and FAFSA completion) apply to them. At CAER, our goal is to be responsive to the needs of the Cleveland community and be a partnership that is reflective of Cleveland (not necessarily nationwide trends or examples). That is why we are being purposeful in integrating district personnel throughout the research project (not just in the research agenda setting process) through a stakeholder advisory group. This advisory group includes principals, district staff, and other stakeholders who will be engaged in identifying the needed research, conducting the research, and shaping communications about the research. Researchers from our partner organizations will be engaging with classroom and district practitioners to ensure that learning is happening on both sides of the partnership and the capacity of researchers and practitioners is expanded through the partnership work.
This constant collaboration will help facilitate the use of research findings in practice by ensuring that the research we undertake is examining the actual questions educators are asking and by building relationships and trust. The results of our initial study will be specifically presented to superintendents and principals of high schools enrolling English learners, based on the district's strategy of empowering individual schools while moving central office into a more supporting role. The district recognizes principals and their leadership teams as the nexus at which school improvement will occur, and they are the main audience for this research. Their feedback will inform the specific focus of a second follow-up study. Together, through practice-informed research, we are working hard to support all our kids to reach their full potential.