New Coaching Resource Can Help Schools Support Teachers of English Learners

By Tim Blackburn
July 2019
teacher in front of a whiteboard in a classroom

As a group, English learner students continue to grow in American schools. English learners now comprise over 10 percent of the total student population nationwide, and in even higher percentages in states such as Texas, California and New York.

English learners bring many diverse assets to their education that include their home language, culture and prior knowledge. Yet many schools have struggled to support the same level of academic achievement for English learners as their non English learner peers. According to the U.S. Department of Education data, 67 percent of English learner students graduated from high school in four years compared to an 84 percent graduation rate for all students.

Because of these trends, it is especially important that teachers feel equipped to make learning accessible for all students. Some associated skills might include:

  • Crafting clear, accessible learning goals and corresponding proficiency scales
  • Scaffolding core content to ensure English learner students can understand lessons
  • Developing students’ English proficiency in the academic language they need to meet content area standards
  • Creating supportive learning environments that capitalize on English learner students’ home cultures, knowledge and skills

Seeking to Continuously Improve Instructional Practice

State education agencies, school districts and teacher unions have increasingly turned to teacher evaluation models to identify high-leverage, evidence-based practices for teaching and learning.

But what do these practices look like when serving English learner students? And although we know teacher evaluation models are helpful for teacher assessment, can they also be used as a coaching tool?

These questions led to the creation of Promoting Success for Teachers of English Learners: A Coaching Tool, a resource developed in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers’ English Learner State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards, the American Institutes for Research and Learning Sciences International.

This coaching tool illustrates effective practices for teaching English learner students aligned to the Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model.

Promoting Success for Teachers of English Learners is not an evaluation tool, but it does align directly to the Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model and emphasizes the following four elements:

  • Standards-based planning
  • Standards-based instruction
  • Conditions for learning
  • Professional responsibilities

Helping Teachers Provide the Level of Instruction That All Their Students Deserve

We believe this coaching tool can be a valuable addition to teacher and administrator pre-service preparation programs, as well as in-service professional development initiatives for principals, teachers and other school personnel responsible for the education of English learner students.

It is built on the premise that teacher practice should include the following elements for supporting English learner students:

Setting high expectations

Plan instruction that raises learning to the level of the standards rather than lowering the standards so students can easily meet them. Develop students’ language proficiency and content area knowledge and skills concurrently. Adapt teaching practice in consideration of students’ levels of first and second language proficiency while drawing on their home language skills and knowledge.

Developing a classroom culture built on respect

Create a learning environment in which English learner students and their peers work collaboratively to support one another.

Scaffolding instruction with English learner students’ access in mind

Deliver core content in English that language learners are able to understand. Strategically develop English learner students’ language proficiency in the target language and differentiate instruction for a range of language proficiency levels among students.

Engaging in professional responsibilities

These can include accessing information about students’ prior learning experiences; contributing to school initiatives and projects that support English learner students and their families; and advocating for English learner students to help ensure they receive a high level of support and have the same instructional opportunities, resources and support as other students.

For professional learning associated with this coaching tool, contact Kelli Scardina.

Promoting Success for Teachers of English Learners: Tool Aligned With the Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model is available on our website. You can also download an overview report from CCSSO, and the Danielson Framework for Teaching from AIR.