A Focused Look at Schools Receiving School Improvement Grants That Have High Percentages of English Language Learner Students

Laura Golden, AIR
Barbara Harris of Mathematica Policy Research
Diana Mercado-Garcia, AIR

Federal School Improvement Grants (SIGs) support turnaround efforts in the nation’s lowest-performing schools, including many that serve a large number of English Language Learner Students (ELLs). This evaluation brief examines 11 high-ELL SIG schools’ capacity and efforts to address the unique needs of ELLs.

Key Findings

  • Although all 11 schools provided specialized supports for ELL students, the schools’ approaches during the initial phase of SIG included only moderate or limited attention to the unique needs of ELLs.
  • District and school administrators perceived challenges with teachers' skills in meeting the unique needs of ELLs. However, teachers’ perceptions of their own capacity were more mixed. The capacity of the schools’ district offices also varied, with two districts having no ELL staff and seven having an ELL department.
  • Schools that appeared to provide stronger attention to the unique needs of ELLs were more likely to have school staff dedicated to ELL needs. Such schools also were more likely to be located in districts that provided expertise and an explicit focus on ELLs within the context of SIG.

Findings are based on fall 2011 site visits and teacher survey responses in 11 SIG schools that have high percentages of ELLs located in 9 districts and 4 states. These case study schools were part of a cohort that received SIG over a three-year period (school years 2010-11 to 2012-13).