A research team from the Stanford Graduate School of Education released a study last month outlining the common practices and values of the top 6 high schools responsible for having an exemplary record of graduated and career-ready ELLs. The researchers profiled 7 key elements shared by all schools that contributed to their ELL success:
Passionate, strategic, mission-driven leadership. Principals, assistant principals, teachers, and other staff exhibited strong ideals and goals for their ELL students. Their effort went beyond normal lengths that included strategic decision-making, community and family outreach, and effective curriculum and teaching methods.
Strategic staffing. These schools are strategic in the type of school staff that is hired. Many of the school staff members are former ELL, immigrants, or have extensive travel experiences. Moreover, some are dual-certified in ESL and content areas. In this way, school leaders easily shared perspective with their students, communicated in their home language, and provided effective instruction tailored specifically to their ELL students.
Ongoing, intentional assessment with follow-through. Assessment and data drive each school’s progress. From entry to graduation and beyond, the school will assess student capacity and update course offerings and instruction accordingly. Frequent communication between family and administrators is another common element that helps the school evaluate the needs of each student and their family.
Intensive social-emotional support. The schools support student success and growth immensely, especially through family and school involvement. School staff is strategic in reaching out and involving their students and their families by understanding and respecting their cultures, communicating in their home language, and providing additional support in terms of health services, food security, and employment.
Unified language development framework integrating content, analytical practices, and language learning. Teaching methods and curriculum are effective and tailored to the needs of their ELL students. School leaders formulate lesson plans that will strengthen ELL first language development for a strong foundation so that students can then build and retain second language development.
Intentional, carefully orchestrated structures. Student focus is carefully orchestrated to ensure that students can maximize and enrich their potential and, effectively, reduce the need for credit recovery. These schools are also not bound by traditional class periods or schedules, and school staff is always readily available. Schedules can range from block schedules, afterschool and weekend tutoring, and looping.
Strategic community partnerships. The schools build partnerships with external organizations, such as STEM or philanthropic programs, and colleges, that will broaden the opportunity for students to network, gain extracurricular experience, and increase their knowledge of the college-going process.
In summary, these schools incorporated passionate and supportive leadership, strategic decision-making, effective teaching methods, meaningful curriculum, and family and community involvement into their ELL framework. The Latino Family Literacy Project understands that all these are important benchmarks in serving any ELL population. Our organization can train school staff, with these principles in mind, to work with Spanish-speaking families to ensure positive English Language outcomes, strong parent involvement, and academic success. To learn more about our program and how it works, check out our program overview.