Connecting Research to Practice for English Learners │ Center for ELs

AIR provides valuable technical assistance and professional development to help states and districts improve instruction and learning for ELs. We tailor our services to meet the specific needs of our clients in the following areas:

Early Childhood Education (COLLTS)

Young male teacher reading to preschool children

Cultivating Oral Language Literacy Talent in Students (COLLTS)

Learn more about our COLLTS research study and the resulting early childhood curriculum, which includes high-quality materials and professional development.

Cultivating Oral Language Literacy Talent in Students (COLLTS) is an early childhood program comprised of English and Spanish units that promote the development of pre-reading skills, oral language proficiency, and background and conceptual knowledge through interactive reading of high-quality children’s literature. COLLTS units are easily integrated into on-going early childhood education programs.

The COLLTS units were created by researchers using techniques that have been validated in prior research conducted with bilingual and low-income students in the United States.

K–12 Curriculum and Instruction

Teacher working closely with student

Attaining Core Content for English Language Learners (ACCELL)

The ACCELL approach includes methods, resources, and tools to help teachers across the subject areas scaffold core content for ELs. ACCELL was strategically developed from the ground up to align with college and career ready standards.

Professional Learning Communities Facilitator's Guide: Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School

This guide is designed to assist teacher teams in applying the evidence-based strategies in the Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School educator's practice guide. The practice guide provides recommendations that address what works for English learners during reading and content area instruction.

State, District, and School Support Services

Teachers conferring

The Center for ELs at AIR helps states, districts, and schools collect information about current policies and practices for ELs, evaluate those policies and practices, and formulate plans of action to make improvements in the education of ELs. 

Center staff looks closely at language and academic performance data together with information collected from relevant district documents, classroom observations, staff interviews, and surveys. After collecting and analyzing this information AIR EL experts provide an evaluation report with a detailed account of findings reflective of both what is working and what is not working to help ELs succeed.

Staff also assist in explaining the results of the findings with wider groups of stakeholders in communities, and helps devise action plans, together with staff and stakeholders, for improved educational outcomes for ELs.

Examples of Our Work in Support Services

SLIFE Communities of Practice, Massachusetts

The Center for ELs is working with Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary to provide support and guidance to local education agencies on the topic of SLIFE (students with limited or interrupted formal education). Through virtual and in-person community of practice meetings facilitated by the AIR and its subcontractor, SupportEd, participating districts will gain valuable insights and share strategies to best meet the needs of SLIFE in their schools. The AIR team will draw on empirical research, best practices in place nationally, as well as the local contextual needs to guide participating district in their approach to working with SLIFE.

Strategic Action Plan for Arlington Public Schools, Virginia

AIR is supporting the work of the Arlington Public Schools (APS) Office of English Learners (OEL) to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of ELs by agreeing to develop, implement, and monitor a strategic action plan. The first phase of the project, in fall 2022, involved gathering data from staff and community members to better understand how ELs are being served in Arlington schools. Data and engagement activities included an educator survey, principal focus groups, family focus groups, central office interviews, a community advisory meeting, and educator work groups. In 2023, AIR will synthesize findings into goals for a five-year strategic action plan and meet with district and community groups to refine the plan. In subsequent years, AIR will partner with the district for implementation and progress monitoring.

Rock Island-Milan School District, Illinois

AIR completed an English Learner audit for the Rock Island-Milan School District 41 to provide an analysis of district policies and practices for ELs and offer recommendations for next steps to improve outcomes for ELs. The EL audit consisted of surveys, focus groups, and class observations with district staff and a review of student achievement data. The final report for the district addressed major areas of policy and practice, including identification and placement, staffing, the instructional model, curriculum and instructional methods, professional development, assessment, communication with families and community, and exceptional student services. The final report also concluded with recommendations to improve programs and practices for ELs.

Holyoke School District, Massachusetts

The Center for ELs recently signed a contract with the Holyoke School District in Massachusetts for three, half-day professional development trainings. Holyoke is requesting the Center's assistance on the use of formative assessments to determine if an EL has a disability in speech, language, or learning. The Center will provide several formative assessments to the district teams. The district teams will review the assessments for strengths and weaknesses in use with ELs. The Center staff will facilitate a discussion to lead the group to consensus for the most appropriate assessment and will assist in outlining the implementation process. The formative assessments will be reviewed for cultural appropriateness in instructions and content as well as in the environment where they will be administered.

Tacoma Public School District 10, Washington 

The Tacoma School District 10 has contracted the Center for ELs at AIR to conduct an evaluation of the district's EL program to make recommendations to improve services for ELs. The review will include the following: (1) identification of potential ELs; (2) staffing models and allocation of resources; (3) equitable access to resources; (4) design and implementation of delivery models; (5) professional development; and (6) effectiveness of communication with parents and community. The evaluation will also include a review of academic and English language proficiency performance of EL students.

Aurora Public Schools, Colorado, EL Evaluation Services

The district requested that AIR provide EL evaluation consulting services to inform district policies and practices related to ELs in the following areas: (1) program organization, (2) curriculum and instruction, and (3) support services. The district was interested particularly in how its English language development model of instruction compared with national and research-based best practices for educating ELs. The report was used by the district to make improvements in policies and practices to improve the English language and academic achievement outcomes of ELs.

Christina Public Schools, Delaware, EL Evaluation Services

The Christina School District contract the Center for ELs to conduct an evaluation of policies and practices as they relate to the performance of secondary ELs. The evaluation report was used by the district to develop an Improvement Plan to improve educational outcomes for secondary EL students.

Hartford, Connecticut, Public School District Review of Policies and Practices for ELs

At the request of the superintendent and school board, AIR EL specialists conducted a review of policies and practices for ELs in the Hartford Public Schools. The review consisted of document reviews; classroom observations; and interviews of district-level leads, school administrators, English as a second language (ESL) specialists, and classroom teachers. AIR’s final report made recommendations for strengthening EL policies and practices.

Higher Education

Group of English learner college students

Serving English Language Learners in Higher Education: Unlocking the Potential

In higher education, increases in immigration as well as growth in international student enrollment means that institutions are faced with the challenge and opportunity of serving ELs on their campuses. This white paper describes profiles of three ELs in higher education, each from a distinct group: international students, recent immigrants, and Generation 1.5 students. The profiles detail the motivations, experiences, and challenges that each EL faces in his or her academic pursuits. The paper offers considerations for serving ELs in colleges and universities at both the institutional level and classroom level, with an emphasis on how technology can be used to leverage research based practices.

The white paper served as the foundation for a convening of researchers, practitioners, and program administrators at the TESOL 2018 conference. In this follow-up webinar in July, we summarized key areas of discussion from the TESOL convening and followed up with next steps for serving ELs in higher education.