A Focus on English Language Learners–Evidence Blast


March 2013


English Language Learners at a table

Our Evidence Blast series provides research, data, and resources to help practitioners and policy makers make important decisions about schools and students.

This issue focuses on English language learners (ELLs), who make up 8 percent of our region’s student population. As a group, ELL students face the dual challenge of learning all the content that any student has to learn, while at the same time developing proficiency in English. Not surprisingly, standardized test results for ELLs confronting this dual challenge lag behind results for non-ELLs. Results from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress show that only 3 percent of Northwest ELL students in grade 8 were proficient in reading and only 3 percent were proficient in mathematics. This compares to 37 percent of non-ELLs who were proficient in reading and 40 percent who were proficient in math.

In order to address this disparity, states, districts, and schools are looking for evidence-based ways to redesign or improve their services and supports for ELL students. Education Northwest is involved in adding to and disseminating the research base in a number of ways. For example, we are conducting a randomized controlled trial of Project GLAD, a model designed to build all students’ academic language and grade-level content knowledge, but used especially widely in schools that serve significant numbers of ELL students. We are completing the evaluation of Project COPELLS (Collaborative Online Projects for English Language Learners), a project that creates online learning opportunities to improve content learning for Spanish-speaking ELLs in middle school.

Below, we provide a sampling of other research and resources. For customized literature searches on this or other topics, please contact our reference desk librarian, Jennifer Klump.

From the U.S. Department of Education

Effective Literacy and English Language Instruction for English Learners in the Elementary Grades

This practice guide provides five evidence-based recommendations for improving the reading achievement and English language development of elementary-level ELL students.

English Language Proficiency Levels of Limited English Proficient Students in Idaho

This study describes the proficiency levels of limited English proficient (LEP) students and LEP student subgroups on the Idaho English Language Assessment.

Other Research and Resources

Effective Reading Programs for Spanish Dominant English Language Learners (ELLS) in the Elementary Grades: A Synthesis of Research

This review synthesizes the research on a variety of English language reading programs that are used with Spanish-dominant ELL students at the elementary school level, including some “proven” and “promising” whole-school and whole-class interventions.

Framework for English Language Proficiency Development Standards Corresponding to the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards

This framework is designed to help states revise, revamp, or rewrite their English-language proficiency standards so that they align with the Common Core State Standards.