Study Looks at Four School Districts’ Success with ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 03, 2008 1 min read
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The Council of the Great City Schools is conducting a study of four urban school districts that it deems as having success with English-language learners at the elementary school level, and it will produce a report on what has led to their success with these students. The organization expects to release the study’s results at its annual conference next fall.

But in the meantime, I’d thought you’d want to know which school districts have been selected. They are the Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, and St. Paul, Minn., school districts. The council chose the school districts based on achievement data for ELLs in the 3rd and 4th grades from 2003 to 2005, or in some cases, 2002-2005, according to Jason C. Snipes, the director of research for the Council of the Great City Schools. “They’ve had meaningful progress and sometimes the progress looked a lot different than in other districts in their states,” Mr. Snipes said.

The council also selected two school districts, which it won’t name, that have not had remarkable progress with ELLs and will be used for comparison purposes.

I think it’s particularly interesting that the study will try to determine what sets these school districts that have had success with ELLs apart from other school districts. St. Paul stands out, said Mr. Snipes, because it has used a team-teaching approach for ELLs (which I’ve written about, by the way) and because district leaders seem to be committed to providing ELLs with access to the core curriculum.

The following questions are among those that the study aims to answer: What are the primary instructional strategies that the district has used for ELLs? What appears to be the connection between changes at the district level and changes in the daily life at the school and classroom level?

That last question is one that I also often seek an answer to when I visit classrooms and report on ELLs for Education Week. Mr. Snipes noted to me that “district initiatives may not filter down to the classroom.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.