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IES Grant

Title: National Research and Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Walqui, Aída Awardee: WestEd
Program: Education Research and Development Centers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2020 - 06/30/2025) Award Amount: $10,000,000
Type: Multiple Goals Award Number: R305C200008

Topic: English language learners research

Co-Principal Investigators: Umansky, Ilana; Cai, Li; Chu, Haiwen

Focused Program of Research: English Learners (ELs) in secondary schools face two types of challenges: barriers to accessing rigorous courses and a scarcity of quality learning opportunities in school that prepare them for life, careers, and civic participation. To understand policies and systems-level practices that are related to the school experiences of ELs in secondary schools, the National Research and Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners (the center) will carry out two lines of inquiry: a study of course-taking patterns and a study on co-teaching as instructional model for ELs. Center researchers will also iteratively design, develop, and refine educative curricular materials in English Language Arts (ELA) and a summer bridge course in mathematics. These materials will be annotated to build awareness in teachers of the purposes of pedagogical arrangements, their structure and implementation, and what to do when students need more or less support. The center will test the finished curriculum materials, intended to deepen and accelerate ELs’ disciplinary learning simultaneously, in two delayed intervention randomized controlled trials.

This multi-pronged program of research will advance our ability to improve outcomes for ELs in several ways. Being able to offer the field a clear understanding of the implications of course-taking patterns can influence school structures that serve ELs. Understanding the conditions that support quality co-teaching has the potential to inform program design and professional learning. Furthermore, making available to the field annotated instructional materials will help teachers shift their pedagogical practices from simplification to amplification.

Setting: The course-taking pattern research will take place in four states: Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The co-teaching study will span 52 state education agencies, 3 local education agencies in different states, and 6 schools nested in 3 districts. Development work of approaches to disciplinary instruction will engage a large urban district (Los Angeles Unified School District, for ELA) and a suburban district (Sequoia Union High School District, for mathematics).

Sample: For the course-taking study, researchers will construct a longitudinal database across five cohorts starting in the eighth grade in the four states above. These cohorts total more than 2.1 million students, of whom 80,000 are ELs. At the state level in these 4 settings, the concentration of ELs varies from 3 percent to 10 percent. Participants in the co-teaching study will include all Title III directors in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, with additional data collection being carried out with 24 district administrators, 12 coaches, and 18 English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers. For the efficacy test of the ELA materials, participants will include 13,500 eighth grade students, of whom 4,500 are ELs, nested in 90 teachers, nested in 30 schools. For the efficacy test of the mathematics intervention, participants will include 600 students, of whom 300 are ELs, who will be random assigned to 2 staggered cohorts in a summer bridge program.

National Leadership and Outreach Activities: The center will reach out to teachers and educational leaders through a variety of venues. For example, they will develop materials to support Professional Learning Community meetings for secondary teachers, a very common arrangement for educator collaboration. The center will also offer a variety of learning and collaboration opportunities focused on schools with limited access to research findings. The center will write research-to-practice briefs, create content for blogs, use technology and social media channels in innovative ways, all in the service of improving access to and quality of educational opportunities for secondary ELs.

IES Program Contact: Helyn Kim
Telephone: (202) 245-6890

Project Website: