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

4 lies the system teaches school leaders about struggling readers

There are four lies/misconceptions about struggling readers that have become embedded in school systems, said Terrie Noland, vice president of educator initiatives at Learning Ally, during a recent edWebinar. “School leaders are just following along and are starting to believe them.” These misconceptions are having a detrimental impact on struggling readers, and school leaders need to set the tone and build a school culture where best practices and evidence-based research are shared to create a system of support for all readers.

4 lies we are told about struggling readers

1. Struggling readers have a lower cognitive capacity than typical readers

All students have similar cognitive capacities in their brains; however, the connections to learning are different in the brain of a struggling reader. These students need a specific type of fluency intervention for them to make connections to the cognitive capacities in their brains that lead to learning. The four elements of fluency that launch students into the cognitive process are rate, automaticity, accuracy, and prosody. By building these skills, students start to develop their neuro-networks and move to the learning area of the brain.…Read More