How we turned around our English language learner (ELL) program


West Broward High School, located in Pembroke Pines, Fla., serves more than 2,000 students in grades nine through 12.

Biggest challenge:

Results on standardized tests revealed that about a quarter of our 9th- and 10th-grade students weren’t reading at grade level. Many of those struggling were English-language learners (ELLs) whose English proficiency wasn’t at the level needed to comprehend challenging texts within these exams. Some were students with learning disabilities. Others simply hadn’t discovered texts that engage them, so hadn’t spent enough time developing the reading skills they need for success.


With the help of our literacy coach and reading department chair Elizabeth Rivero, we developed a set of strategies for closing the gaps by targeting struggling readers through specialized instruction. Any student in grades nine or 10 who didn’t score a level 3 or above on the Florida Standardized Assessment (FSA) in the previous year is now placed in a dedicated reading class. Any 11th or 12th grader who hasn’t met the reading score requirement for graduation through the FSA, SAT, or ACT is placed in this class as well, along with all level one or two ELL students.…Read More

Survey shows SEL is critical for K-12 English learners

Most teachers of K-12 English learners say their students have lots of academic potential, but social and emotional obstacles could potentially stall these students’ progress, according to the English Learners Report from McGraw-Hill.

Seventy-five percent of surveyed teachers and 85 percent of surveyed administrators say they are optimistic that K-12 English learners can achieve academic success. A majority of both educator groups also believe English learner instruction contributes to their students’ improved academic language performance and overall English proficiency.

The research underscores the growing importance social and emotional learning (SEL) have in classrooms. SEL, while not a core curriculum subject, is frequently considered another essential part of learning because it helps students regulate their own emotions and learn how to respond to social situations and challenges.…Read More

8 of the best apps and resources for English language learners

There are thousands of educational mobile apps available for English language learners, allowing learners to practice outside of the classroom in ways that can greatly enhance learning and motivation.

Because cost is a critical concern in most schools and for most teachers and parents, this article focuses mostly on free apps. When searching the app store, be aware of words such as “Lite” or “Free” or “In-App Purchases” in fine print underneath the download button. It can be very frustrating to find an excellent alphabet app, for instance, only to find that it only goes up to letter D before it locks and prompts you to purchase the full version. You may want to spend the money if the app is for one or two students, but when apps are purchased they are only licensed to a single device, so it may not be feasible for a class of 30 students.

The use of pictures, photos, drawings, diagrams, video, and actual objects facilitates language instruction because they strongly increase comprehensibility. For example, if a student is simply presented the word “карандаш” (krandash), no actual learning can take place because it means nothing to the learner. However, if the student is presented with a picture of a pencil attached to the new word, it becomes comprehensible.…Read More

Seven key stats with important implications for schools

The percentage of U.S. students living in poverty jumped by 40 percent in the last decade, and total funding for K-12 education dropped by $1 billion from 2008-09 to 2009-10. Yet, despite these challenges, high school graduation rates are slowly climbing—and more students are completing math and science courses, according to the latest figures from the National Center on Education Statistics.

Released May 23, “The Condition of Education 2013”—the latest in an annual series of reports from NCES, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education—is chock full of valuable statistics for policy makers and education leaders. Here are seven findings of particular significance for K-12 education.

1. Public school enrollment is projected to increase by 7 percent from 2010-11 to 2021-22.…Read More

Six ed-tech resources for ELL/ESL instruction

One reader’s tip: Know the products that work!

It’s usually the editors’ job at eSchool News to create our own “Question of the Week” for our newsletters, but a few weeks ago we received a request from a reader that we ask our followers: “What are some ways technology helps in the education of ELL students?”

From award-winning software, to a teacher-created program that needs peer input, our readers offered some useful ways in which technology can help English-language learners and those for whom English is a second language. Here are six of the best responses (edited for brevity).

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English learners far behind under English-only methods

The end of the school day in Patty Sanchez’s kindergarten class at Geddes Elementary School is not so different from other kindergarten classes around the state. Children gather on a rug as Sanchez holds up a storybook about a coyote and a turtle and reads out loud, according to the Hechinger Report. What’s different is that Sanchez is reading in Spanish. Nearly all of the children in the room are Hispanic, and many are English-language learners. The few who are new to Spanish are expected to follow along with the story, too, and respond in Spanish to Sanchez’s questions…

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Study: California English proficiency test ‘almost guarantees’ English learner classification

Most four- and five-year-olds who take an English proficiency exam before kindergarten are bound to fail the test, according to a new study, the Huffington Post reports. Taking the California English Language Development Test “almost guarantees” a student will be classified as an English learner, the University of California, Berekely’s Center for Latino Policy Research, study reports…

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What schools can learn from charters about teaching English language learners

Dual language learning is considered a unique characteristic for some charters.
Dual-language learning is considered a unique characteristic for some charters.

As charter schools become testing grounds for innovative approaches to education, many of these schools with high English language learner (ELL) and Latino enrollments are identifying best practices for how to achieve proficiency with these students. The most important advice: Involve the community and offer after-school activities.

“Next Generation Charter Schools: Meeting the Needs of Latinos and English Language Learners,” a new report released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), details how charter schools can become models for all schools that serve a high number of ELL and Latino students.

The report comes as the Obama administration has encouraged states to support the expansion of high-quality charter schools by giving states that lift caps on new charters a chance to win grants from its Race to the Top competition. But even as the administration pushes for more charter schools, many critics are questioning whether the schools really are any more effective than traditional public schools.…Read More

Arizona law worries non-native educators

Some Arizona teachers fear for their jobs as a result of a department of education policy that seeks to reassign teachers who speak with heavy accents.
Some Arizona teachers fear for their jobs as a result of a new policy seeking to reassign teachers who speak with heavy accents.

Many Arizona teachers who learned English as a second language or who speak in accented English, and who are educating English language learners, are worried about their job security after word spread about the state education department’s suggestion that those educators with heavy accents be reassigned.

Recent media reports state that the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has mandated that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes containing students who are learning to speak English.

Reports quote ADE officials as saying that the intent of the initiative is to ensure that students with limited English have teachers who are highly qualified in fluency of the English language.…Read More

Ed officials to step up civil-rights enforcement

The federal Education Department plans to intensify its civil-rights enforcement efforts in schools around the country, including a deeper look at issues ranging from programs for immigrant students learning English to equal access to college preparatory courses, reports the Associated Press. Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans to outline the department’s plans in a speech delivered March 8 in Alabama to commemorate the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” in which several hundred civil-rights protesters were beaten by state troopers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge during a voting rights march in 1965. “For us, this is very much about working to meet the president’s goal that by 2020, we will regain our status in the world as the No. 1 producer of college graduates,” said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights. The department is expecting to conduct 38 compliance reviews around 40 different issues this year, Ali said. In his prepared remarks, Duncan highlights several jarring inequities: At the end of high school, white students are about six times more likely to be college-ready in biology than black students, and more than four times as likely to be prepared for college algebra…

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