English Language Learner District Curriculum Audit

Pursuant to the accountability requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (as reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act), New York City’s Community School District 5 wanted to determine which practices and strategies enabled some elementary and middle schools within the district to reach high levels of performance for English language learners (ELLs). The district contracted AIR to conduct a curriculum audit focused on schools where ELLs had been successful as well as schools that had consistently failed to make adequate yearly progress for the ELL subgroup. The district and school consultation services provided by AIR included curriculum audits of districts and schools in Corrective Action.


  1. In the high-performing schools, teachers were much more likely to use core English language arts (ELA) standards to guide their instruction when working with ELLs.
  2. Teachers in the high-performing schools were more likely to implement instructional strategies that allowed students to master the material contained in those ELA standards than teachers in low-performing schools. Furthermore, teachers in high-performing schools were more likely to instruct students using small-group activities. Teachers in these schools also used students’ backgrounds to help in conceptualization of new learning. Finally, teachers in high-performing schools gave students more feedback on both oral and written language production than their lower performing counterparts.
  3. Data-driven instruction was better established in high-performing schools compared with lower performing ones, and the data came from multiple sources.
  4.  A consistently enforced schoolwide behavior plan was more likely to be found in high-performing schools than in low-performing schools.
  5. ELLs in high-performing schools were found to benefit from a broader range of supplemental services, many of which were offered before or after school, on weekends, and even in the summer.
  6. The professional development offered to staff members of high-performing schools was found to be greater in scope and depth, more cohesive, and targeted to the needs of ELLs than in low-performing schools.
  7. Teachers in high-performing schools were more likely to collaborate both formally and informally to analyze data and discuss student performance both as individuals and in groups. In high-performing schools, times also were more likely to be built into the master schedule to permit teachers to engage in these activities.
  8. Teachers in high-performing schools received more instructional guidance and support from the school administration than teachers in low-performing schools.


Data collection and analysis focused on schools where English language learners (ELLs) had been successful as well as schools that had consistently failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the ELL subgroup. Data were collected from six sources. Two sources (principal survey and network leader interviews) represented all schools in New York City’s Community School District 5, and four sources (school staff interviews, classroom observations, teacher surveys, and document review) represented a subsample of three high-achieving and three low-achieving schools within the district. The districtwide sources gave a broader, more comprehensive picture of potential differences between high-performing and low-performing schools districtwide, while the school-level sources presented a more focused and nuanced picture of these differences at the school level. Combined analysis of these data sources supported development of the key findings. All data were aggregated and reported at the district level.