School & District Management

Study: How to Ensure ELLs Aren’t Sidelined in a District

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 23, 2009 1 min read
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The Council of the Great City Schools released this week a report that offers a composite description for district policies that support strong achievement among English-language learners.

Districts with strong schooling for ELLs—based on a close look at Dallas, San Francisco, New York City, and St. Paul, Minn.—provide strong oversight from the central office for educating those students, make sure that general education teachers as well as specialists receive training on how to work with ELLs, and analyze student data to improve instruction for that group of students. I write about the study in an article published this week on

But what I didn’t mention in my article is details about the individual school districts that were used to produce the model composite. The snapshots of the four school districts deemed to be successful with ELLs have some interesting information about why the researchers believed that to be the case.

For example, a three-decade-old desegregation case against the Dallas Independent School District could be credited, in part, for providing a foundation for the education of minorities in the district, including ELLs, the report says. ELLs were explicitly included in a comprehensive desegregation plan for the district.

The report attributes the push in San Francisco to improve programs for ELLs, in part, to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Lau v. Nichols, based in San Francisco and decided in 1974. The case required the district to take steps to provide ELLs with equal access to the general curriculum.

I’ve visited and written about ELLs in New York City and St. Paul, two of the four districts featured in the report.

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