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Improving ELL Students’ Educational Experience and Outcomes Through Collective Impact


Wednesday, January 28, 2015


ELL with Teacher

Nationwide, organizations are taking a “collective impact” approach to meet educational and social challenges by pooling their efforts and resources. A prime example of this in the Northwest is the Road Map Project—a cradle-to-career initiative seeking to increase the number of students who graduate from college or earn a career credential in seven diverse, high-poverty districts in the south Seattle area.

Road Map’s “backbone organization,” the Community Center for Educational Results, leads the network and coordinates a number of work groups with distinct areas of focus. REL Northwest has been partnering with Road Map’s English Language Learner (ELL) Work Group since 2012—providing technical assistance (TA) and conducting research that is building members’ capacity to use local data and evidence to increase the academic proficiency and graduation rates of Road Map districts’ ELL students. REL Northwest’s TA has been helping Road Map districts tackle issues such as:

  • Selecting indicators to monitor school and district effectiveness in serving ELL students
  • Registering students with non-English names
  • Developing and strengthening early warning systems to identify students needing support to graduate from high school
  • Supporting district work with adolescent newcomer ELLs

REL Northwest is also conducting four studies to answer specific research questions for Road Map’s ELL Work Group. The first study, to be published by the Institute of Education Sciences in the next few months, calculates how long it typically takes Road Map ELLs to be reclassified as former ELLs and exit ELL services. REL Northwest is also working on a follow-up to this study that creates a statistical model of reclassification and examines how different student characteristics (such as home language) affect the amount of time it takes students to develop English proficiency. According to Jason Greenberg Motamedi, who leads REL Northwest’s research and TA activities for Road Map, “Findings from these two studies will engage practitioners in conversations about practices that may facilitate or delay the development of English proficiency, especially for long-term ELLs and adolescent newcomers—two student subgroups that may require additional support if the Road Map Project is to meet its graduation goal.”

Two other research studies are likely to be published in early 2016. One examines gaps in access and participation in advanced courses for Washington’s ELL students. For the final study, researchers are looking at how well early warning indicators used by Road Map districts predict high school dropout for ELLs compared to non-ELLs.