The unique learning needs of English-language learners enrolled in low-performing schools that were targeted for dramatic improvements under a federal school turnaround program were largely overlooked, at least in the early phases of implementation, a newconcludes.
In an ongoing review of the Obama administration’s $4.6 billion School Improvement Grant program, the Institute of Education Sciences found that the needs of second-language learners received “only moderate or limited attention” in the early-to-midway stages of the schools’ turnaround initiatives. None of the schools studied by researchers at IES—the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education—showed that addressing ELLs’ needs was a strategic part of their turnaround methods.
Researchers based their findings on a close look at the turnaround strategies in 11 schools with a high proportion of English-language learners—ELL enrollments in the schools ranged from 35 percent to 90 percent. The schools were located among nine different unnamed, high-poverty districts and four states. Evaluators gathered data through two-day site visits and teacher surveys conducted in the fall of 2011 when the schools were entering the second year of their turnaround interventions.
Of the 11 schools, seven were using the so-called transformation model, which requires a new principal and adoption of strategies such as extended learning time. Four of the schools had opted for the turnaround model, which also required a new principal, as well as replacement of at least 50 percent of the teaching staff.
A version of this article appeared in the May 14, 2014 edition of Education Week as Study: Do School Turnarounds Overlook ELLs?