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Regional Educational Laboratory Program

Differential effects of English language learner training and materials—On Our Way to English (OWE) and Responsive Instruction for Success (RISE)Differential effects of English language learner training and materials—On Our Way to English (OWE) and Responsive Instruction for Success (RISE)

Regional need and study purpose

English language learner students (ELLs) are the fastest growing segment of the student populations in many states. Projections suggest that they will make up more than 40 percent of school-age children by 2030 (Thomas and Collier 2001). This growth has boosted demand for teachers to address the needs of English language learner students (Hill and Flynn 2004) and to ensure that they have the same opportunity to learn as their native English-speaking peers (Herman and Abedi 2004). Yet the majority of teachers from urban fringe/large towns (67 percent), central cities (58 percent), and rural locales (82 percent) report that they have never participated in professional development for addressing the needs of students learning English as a second language (Lewis et al. 1999).

This randomized control trial study by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Central responds to these identified needs for teacher professional development and ELL-specific teaching strategies. It will examine the impact on student achievement of using ELL-specific materials in the classroom, in combination with teacher professional development aligned with those materials.

The programs chosen for this study are Responsive Instruction for Success in English (RISE), a professional development program for teachers of English language learners, and the ELL-specific instructional materials On Our Way to English (OWE). The study will provide an unbiased estimate of the impact of RISE and OWE on student academic achievement. It will also determine whether training in RISE and the use of OWE is effective in raising teachers' knowledge about and skill in teaching English language learners.

The study addresses a primary and secondary research question, both of them confirmatory. The primary research question is:

  • Does implementation of RISE in conjunction with the use of OWE have a significant impact on the acquisition of English language skills in vocabulary, fluency, reading comprehension, grammar use, writing, and listening?

The secondary research question is:

  • Does the use of OWE in combination with RISE participation change teacher pedagogical practices, reflected in teacher behaviors and skills related to English language learner students?
    • Do teachers connect principles of learning theory to second language development, and if so, how?
    • Do teachers use small group instruction for reading and writing with their English language learner students and if so, how?
    • Do teachers use student assessment data to inform or guide their teaching, and if so, how?

The study will contribute to understanding the effects of professional development aligned with curricular interventions on the academic achievement of English language learner students. Although this study will provide an unbiased estimate of the effects of the professional development intervention and the curricular intervention under examination, these findings will relate only to the combined effect of two particular interventions.

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