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Collaborating for English learner student success in Cleveland

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By Marguerite Huber
October 12, 2017

REL Midwest and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) are collaborating to study the district’s Multilingual Multicultural Education Program and its rapidly expanding population of English learner students.

One of the goals of the Regional Educational Laboratories (REL) is building collaborations that can function without REL assistance in the future. These collaborations are different than our four research alliances in a number of ways. Although REL Midwest’s research alliances are state based with work extending over years, these other collaborations are much smaller and often involve REL Midwest and only one other organization over a shorter time period of time.

The immediate need for English learner research and technical assistance in Cleveland helped spur the creation of the Cleveland Collaboration for English Learner Success, which involves REL Midwest and the Multilingual Multicultural Education Office of the CMSD.

This collaboration focuses on Cleveland’s population of English learner students, which has doubled in the last seven years. “Spanish and Arabic are the most common languages, but approximately 45 languages and dialects and 32 countries are represented in the district, making the hiring of qualified staff difficult,” José Gonzalez, director of the Office of Multilingual Multicultural Education, reported.

Lyzz Davis, collaboration facilitator and REL Midwest’s main point of contact with staff in Cleveland, summarized, “I love that this collaboration is something we worked with the district to build from the ground up. I get to partner with some amazing people in the district, and together we are helping shape the direction from the beginning.”

In May 2017, REL Midwest met with CMSD to develop a research agenda and plan to sustain the district’ss work. After a daylong workshop, they came up with core research questions.

Their brainstorming resulted in the following collaboration goals:

  • Support the use of research in decisionmaking when it comes to English learner students.
  • Build the district’ss capacity to be consumers and users of research.
  • Inform teachers and principals on the best ways to work with English learner students.
  • Translate the results of the preliminary work into more rigorous research.
  • Help English learner students succeed.

Gonzalez said he is “most excited about diving deep into the data and coming up with more goals.”

The initial study will examine the school-level factors associated with English learner student success for five consecutive cohorts of students. Once the study results are in, the findings will allow CMSD to expand its knowledge of Cleveland’s English learner population, may help drive what practices it recommends to principals, and will help narrow down top priorities. The results not only will be important to CMSD but also will inform the work of other districts in the state with similar percentages of English learner students. “This work will assist the rest of Ohio in two areas: awareness of how to educate English learners and [defining] what has and has not been working in a district as large and diverse as Cleveland,” Gonzalez explained.

For more information, check out the WVIZ and REL Midwest public television program featuring CMSD, “Learning English: Diverse Students in American Classrooms.”

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Author(s) Information

Marguerite Huber Staff Picture

Marguerite Huber

Communications Associate | REL Midwest


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