Announcements on this page are generally from the Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), or other relevant government agencies and offices, about concerns facing English learner (EL) education. The date listed indicates either when the announcement was published in Nexus, NCELA's semimonthly newsletter, or occasionally, published directly on this page. Links are provided to original sources, when available.
NEW! NPD Spotlight: WritEL Grant at Eastern Michigan University
March 23, 2021
NPD 2016 Recipient: Eastern Michigan University (EMU)
Dr. Zuzana Tomas, Grant PI | Ms. Sarah Lorenz, Project Director
Writing Research Intervention for Teaching English Learners (WritEL) is a 5-year, National Professional Development (NPD) grant-funded project. The main goals of WritEL are to:
- Provide world-class TESOL training and certification to K–12 teachers in Southeast Michigan;
- Research the effects of the College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP) — a nationally recognized argument-writing program — on the writing outcomes for English learners (ELs) in grades 6–12; and
- Involve preservice teachers in community-based literacy activities for ELs by assisting with an adult community-based ESL program, an afterschool program for elementary school ELs, and family literacy programs.
Goal 1: Provide world-class TESOL training and certification to K–12 teachers in Southeast Michigan
By the end of this grant, more than 50 K–12 teachers will have received the ESL Endorsement and MA in TESOL. Of those who have already completed the program, 95% have evaluated it as effective. This was a result of several important programmatic initiatives. First, EMU’s TESOL program carefully considered the employment constraints and commuting needs of the participating K–12 teachers by complementing the traditional graduate classes held on campus with new intensive summer courses, hybrid and online courses, service-learning courses, and an innovative Study Abroad program that allowed 28 Michigan in-service and preservice teachers to travel to Montenegro and earn credits toward their TESOL credentials. This was a highlight for many of our program completers who felt deeply impacted by the immersive experience of teaching ELs in Montenegro while experiencing the linguistic and cultural “otherness” firsthand. (For more information on the impact of this program on the U.S.-based participants and the Montenegrin community, see Tomas et al., 2020a, 2020b, or click here for a short overview video.)
Goal 2: Research the effects of C3WP — a nationally recognized argument-writing program from the National Writing Project — on the writing outcomes for English learners in grades 6–12
Of the K–12 participating teachers, 24 of those teaching ELs in grades 6–12 have participated in a 2-year, 100-hour professional development focused on implementing C3WP resources and instruction. Instructional coaches supported the implementation of this rigorous argument-writing program during the school year, building on the foundational concepts taught in summer and weekend workshops. Preliminary findings from our quasi-experimental study have pointed to statistically significant improvements on argument-writing outcomes for those ELs whose teachers took part in our C3WP professional development. While COVID-19 slowed down the data collection in this main research study, we intend to finalize this impactful research and disseminate the findings to benefit the disciplines of TESOL and Writing Pedagogy. In the meantime, we have shared other aspects of this research initiative in a collaborative article that examined the ways in which our teachers have adapted C3WP units with ELs. This article is included in the special issue of the Language Arts Journal of Michigan, focused on culturally and linguistically diverse pedagogies (see Walsh et al., 2021).
Goal 3: Involve preservice teachers in community-based literacy activities for English learners by assisting with an adult community-based ESL program, an afterschool program for elementary school ELs, and family literacy programs
The service-learning, community-engaged approach to TESOL education embraced in EMU’s TESOL program made the second priority of the 2016 NPD grant — EL family engagement — a particularly good fit for us. We capitalized on our connections to local partner organizations and offered exciting opportunities for local ELs and their families. This community-engaged programming was three-fold. First, we offered weekly ESL services to interested adults in our community, working closely with Washtenaw Literacy, a local partner organization with a 50-year-long tradition of serving basic and ESL literacy needs of adults in our area. Second, we offered 16, four-session family literacy events at local schools. In this family literacy program, EL families were guided through the writing process, which culminated in creation of bilingual family stories that were compiled in a booklet, presented, and shared with participants at the end of the series. Finally, our preservice teachers also had an opportunity to develop an afterschool program for ELs at a partner elementary school. The positive impact on both the preservice teachers and participating ELs is shared in Macknish et al. (2018). An account of our effort to strive toward asset-oriented, youth-led initiatives can be found in Tomas et al. (2021), another collaborative article published in the special issues on culturally and linguistically diverse pedagogies in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan.
Having such a positive impact on EL learners, their families, and teachers in Southeast Michigan has been an incredible privilege for us. We are grateful for this experience, as well as for the continued support for our work by both the Office of English Language Acquisition and the National Writing Project organizations.
References to WritEL-related publications
DeCamillis, K. (under review). Hyperdocs, GIFs, and Padlet: Making online, remote writing instruction accessible for ELs.
Macknish, C., Tomas, Z., & Vojktulaková, M. (2018). Examining performance and attitudes of TESOL preservice teachers and their English learners in a service-learning project. In A. J. Wurr (Ed.), The reading matrix: An online international journal.
Tomas, Z., DeCamillis, K., & Lorenz, S. (in progress). Examining teachers’ online argument writing instruction for English learners.
Tomas, Z., VanHorn-Gable, A., & Marniković, S. (2020). TESOL service-learning study abroad: Examining the impact on American pre- and in-service teachers and Montenegrin community stakeholders. TEFL-EJ International, 23(4).
Tomas, Z., VanHorn-Gable, A., & Marniković, S. (2020). Thinking locally in a global context: Principles for designing an innovative community-engaged study abroad program in TESOL. In L. Beacher (Ed.), Study abroad in teacher education: Transformative learning at the global scale (pp. 213–225). Routledge Press.
Tomas, Z., Vojtkulakova, M., Lehotska, N., & Schottin, M. (2021). Examining the value of online intercultural exchange (OIE) in cultivating agency-focused, (inter)culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogy: A story of one collaborative international project for English learners. The Language Arts Journal of Michigan, 36(1). https://doi.org/10.9707/2168-149X.2267
Walsh, K., Robinson, K., Deacon, R., & Tomas, Z. (2021). Enhancing cultural and linguistic responsiveness in argument writing pedagogy through effective adaptations for English learners: Insights from C3WP resource analysis and three experienced teachers’ practices. The Language Arts Journal of Michigan, 36(1). https://doi.org/10.9707/2168-149X.2268
Biennial Report Presents Data on English Learners (ELs) Served by Title III from 2014–2016
January 12, 2021
The Biennial Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Title III State Formula Grant Program, School Years 2014–2016 has just been released by the Office of English Language Acquisition. The report presents self-reported data from state educational agencies (SEAs) from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico on ELs served by Title III funds.
- Summary of state distribution and allocations of Title III funds to SEAs and subgrantees.
- National overview of ELs and immigrant children and youth.
- Description of the language instruction educational programs that local educational agencies used.
- Progress that SEAs and subgrantees are making toward required accountability measures.
- Information on former ELs.
- Overview of certified or licensed teachers working with ELs.
Strategic Priorities for NCELA in 2021
December 22, 2020
- Increasing family engagement: We will focus on developing tools to help parents understand and navigate education in America.
- Expanding access to distance learning: Our goal is to partner with teachers and families to understand technology limitations impacting English learners (ELs) and adjusting our approach to ensure deficiencies are being identified, addressed, and mitigated.
- Enhancing retention of heritage languages: We will promote new and different educational opportunities to students who speak two or more languages, including four-year degrees, translation certificates, and other technical career options.
We'd like to hear from you! What are your priorities and needs for 2021? Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Infographic: Benefits of Multilingualism
August 5, 2020
There are multiple benefits to being multilingual, multiliterate, and multicultural in today’s global society. Benefits of Multilingualism, a new infographic from the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), illustrates the cognitive, educational, economic, and sociocultural benefits of learning multiple languages.
NAM Grant Highlight: Mâyuhtyâôk (Building Pathways) for Wampanoag Student Achievement
July 21, 2020
The Numukayuhsunônak (Our Children Speak Two Languages) program in Mashpee, MA, this summer is celebrating its first ever Wampanoag Tribal student to successfully complete Wôpanâak Pâsuq (Level 1), Nees (Level 2), and Nuhsh (Level 3), along with submission of an outstanding multi-part language portfolio. Ms. Alyssa Harris, a citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and graduating member of the Mashpee High School Class of 2020, was recognized by the board of directors of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project (WLRP) and the Office of the Superintendent for Mashpee Public Schools “for exemplary performance and completion of a comprehensive set of Wôpanâak language portfolio activities.” Harris is also the first student in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to ever pursue the Seal of Biliteracy in a Native American language.*
Harris’ Wôpanâak language teacher Melanie Roderick, from the Assonet Band of Wampanoag, is a long-time community language instructor now applying her 17 years’ experience gained as a student and teacher to offer daily World Language credit-bearing courses for public high school students in Mashpee. Approximately three dozen students have enrolled in the Wôpanâak language courses since their inception, and Roderick is impressed with Harris’ tenacity in completing the course sequence and portfolio assessment process. “It’s a challenging language to learn as a second language learner, and it can be intimidating to sit down with our highly trained linguists to be evaluated,” she says.
This year, as a senior in the level 3 language course, Wôpanâak Nuhsh, Harris also elected to complete a Wôpanâak language portfolio in pursuit of the State and Global Seals of Biliteracy. While Harris’ final assessments fell just shy of the Intermediate ratings necessary for the seals, she has initiated a new pathway for future generations of Wôpanâak language students by helping create a new language portfolio process, and her dedicated work this year helps WLRP’s teaching and linguistic team to further develop and refine its growing high school curriculum offerings.
Numukayuhsunônak is a five-year bilingual program offered by the nonprofit organization WLRP with funding from the Native American and Alaska Native Students in School program of the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). WLRP partnered with its local education agency, the Mashpee Public Schools district (MPS) and the Mashpee Middle and High School (MMHS) World Languages Department to launch a five-course Wôpanâak language sequence for students at MMHS – beginning with Wôpanâak levels 1 and 2 in 2018-2019, and adding level 3 instruction during year two of its NAMs grant. The 2019-2020 academic year also marked MMHS’s pilot year offering all language students the opportunity to pursue both the State and Global Seal of Biliteracy. The seals are awarded to students who achieve Intermediate High or Intermediate Mid language proficiency on the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale. MMHS offered students access to standardized tests in French, Korean, and Spanish, and partnered with WLRP to implement a brand new 6-part portfolio assessment process for Wôpanâak language proficiency. WLRP’s linguists are now evaluating possibilities for developing an online standardized assessment instrument as well.
* Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) is a reclaimed Native American language once spoken by 69 Tribes among the greater Wampanoag Nation. Mashpee, or Mâsseepee, and Aquinnah, or Âhqunah—in the language’s modern orthography—are two among only three surviving Wampanoag Tribes who remain on their original lands in the Commonwealth (the third is the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe).
NPD Grant Highlight: Educators and Families for English Learners (EFs4ELs)
July 21, 2020
Educators and Families for English Learners (EFs4ELs), a 2017 grantee from the Office of English Language Acquisition partners with public school districts, charter schools, and community organizations in Ohio, the District of Columbia, and Texas around four goals:
- Provide pre-service and in-service teachers with training/professional development and licensure attainment to systematically build the capacity of classroom teachers to support EL achievement;
- Deliver an online professional development infrastructure for EL instructional skill acquisition to augment in-person coaching and PD and enhance teacher skills and connection
- Support the capacity of administrators, instructional coaches, and staff to bolster the success of EL teachers and learners in grades Pre-K-6 through improved instructional skills, data use, and classroom supports; and
- Expand partnerships with and enhance parent skills of EL learners through technology, targeted intervention, and systematic outreach.
Family Engagement Videos
When COVID-19 physically closed their partnership schools in mid-March, parents of their ELLs were faced with additional struggles. Specifically, parents need support on two fronts: (1) how best to structure routines at home that mirror their child/ren’s learning on a school day in normal times and guidance about how to organize their child/ren’s activities and learning space at home; and (2) how parents can understand and implement informal assessment with their children while they are learning at home during the mandated COVID-19 stay at home order. In several instances, a child asked his/her teacher to explain to their parents what situation would best work for their learning. These videos offer insights for parents around optimal learning contexts. One of the principals posted the weblinks to the videos on the school’s Facebook page. Classroom teachers shared the weblinks through WhatsApp communication. Some texted the weblinks to parents.
|Video Series 1: Organizing Time and Space for Learning|
Organizing Time and Space for Learning (English): https://youtu.be/6CeQ_9s4_0U
Organizing Time and Space for Learning (Somali): https://youtu.be/DlL_lousg4c
Organizar el tiempo y el espacio para el aprendizaje (Spanish): https://youtu.be/FnGoD6nvvIk
|Video Series 2: Understanding Informal Assessment for Your Children|
Understanding Informal Assessment for Your Children (English): https://youtu.be/modTikH7qHo
Understanding Informal Assessment for Your Children (Somali): https://youtu.be/gZhbgvO8pBA
Understanding Informal Assessment for Your Children (Spanish): https://youtu.be/1ooValLbpJw
NPD Grant Highlight: SEE-TEL Leverages Student and Family Strengths to Improve Educator Competence and Confidence
June 22, 2020
Strengthening Equity and Effectiveness for Teachers of English Learners (SEE-TEL) is a five-year, $2.6 million National Professional Development Grant (NPD) from OELA. The main goal of SEE-TEL is to improve and equalize the instruction and achievement of designated ELs across the state of Missouri by developing educators' expertise on effective instructional strategies and family engagement. The grant activities emphasize equity and civil rights for immigrant and refugee children from across the highest-need areas of Missouri.
SEE-TEL educators transcend deficit perspectives and insist on foregrounding what families and students offer the broader community. An article in the November/December 2019 issue of Literacy Today stated that SEE-TEL has shifted the focus from what families need to how they can lead.
US News and World Report and the Washington Times adapted a story from The Joplin Globe, which reported on SEE-TEL's success in connecting four diverse Missouri school districts. As part of SEE-TEL, each district has opportunities to share their challenges and opportunities offered by their EL and immigrant communities.
Evaluations and research reports indicate educators benefit from SEE-TEL's professional development activities. A recent article in TESOL Journal examined how creativity is manifested in online TESOL coursework required by NPD grant participants. Surveys show that from Year 1 to Year 2 of SEE-TEL, participating educators grew more confident in:
- Recognizing differences between school and home-country cultures and communication styles.
- Developing better relationships with families whose children were designated English Learners (e.g., see these slides from Dr. Kim Song's recent presentation at the National Association of Bilingual Education).
- Communicating children's educational progress to immigrant and refugee parents.
- Adapting curriculum and instruction to accommodate and build upon students' diverse home languages
To develop such learning, SEE-TEL content teachers practice careful lesson planning, using this WIDA-Supported Lesson Plan Template, which incorporates such scaffolding elements as four language modalities, key vocabulary words, function/action verbs and more. Download a SEE-TEL Sample Lesson Plan created by one teacher who uses translanguaging pedagogies, multilingual texts and vocabulary word banks.
Technology and Teaching English learners (ELs)
April 3, 2020
The U.S. Department of Education has published resources to help clarify what districts and educators should know, ask, and consider doing when using or developing educational technology to support ELs. The study, Supporting English Learners Through Technology, collected data during the 2016─17 school year through a nationally representative survey of districts that enrolled English Learner (EL) students, a teacher survey that included both mainstream teachers and EL specialists, and case studies of six districts to provide more in-depth information about district and teacher practices. Findings cover how districts and teachers identified digital learning resources (DLRs), how teachers used DLRs, supports for and barriers to DLR use, and suggestions for improving the usefulness of DLRs in instruction of EL students. The Educator Toolkit aims to support educators in using technology to help their English learners gain proficiency in English and meet academic goals. To access these resources, please visit:
- Study: Supporting English Learners through Technology: What Districts and Teachers Say about Digital Learning Resources for English Learners
- Educator Toolkit on Using Digital Learning Resources to Support English Learners
- Fact Sheet: Technology Use with English Learners
- Webinar: Supporting English Learners through Technology
Infographic: Promoting Educational Excellence for English Learners
March 23, 2020
A new infographic released by the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) shows its efforts to promote educational excellence for English learners (ELs). Key highlights:
- Focus areas include family engagement, pathways to multiliteracy, special student populations, STEM, and teacher preparation.
- OELA funds 115 grantees through its three grant programs: NPD, NAM, and D2.
- OELA has published 32 fact sheets on a range of EL subjects, including 17 new topics.
- The NCELA Resource Library, a searchable database, has over 20,000 items on EL education.
- The EL Family Toolkit will soon be released as an app for iPhone and Android.
A Look Back at OELA-Funded Evaluation Studies
January 24, 2020
OELA has funded several evaluation studies on ELs including:
Older Adolescent and Young Adult English Learners (ELs): A Study of Demographics, Policies, and Programs: This study reports on the characteristics and educational attainment of ELs aged 14-21. Recommendations for future research and policy implications based upon the findings are discussed.
Identification of ELs in Gifted and Talented (GT) Programs: Identification procedures and policies have been linked to underrepresentation of ELs in GT programs. This study further explores the patterns of underrepresentation and the processes and challenges of assessing and identifying ELs for these programs. Recommendations for those designing and implementing GT programs include adopting a universal screening policy, using a variety of assessment instruments, establishing a web of communication for stakeholders, and employing professional development as a lever for change.
Data Stories on ELs: These interactive web pages provide a clearer understanding of our diverse EL student population through data pulled from the Common Core of Data (CCD) and the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The three data stories include:
- English Learners Data Story: Our Nation's English Learners
- English Learners Data Story II: Educational Experiences of English Learners
- English Learners Data Story III: Academic Performance and Outcomes for English Learners
Digital Learning Resources for Instructing ELs: This study highlights digital learning resources (DLRs) to support the English language acquisition and academic achievement of ELs in K-12 education. There are also two related toolkits: one offering guiding principles to educators regarding the use of technology with ELs, and one for educational technology developers that provides guidance on the needs of ELs and their educators.