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Educators explore integrated and designated English language development instruction for English learners

Educators explore integrated and designated English language development instruction for English
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By Brenda Arellano | April 15, 2019

With one of the highest proportions of English learner (EL) students in the nation, New Mexico has prioritized providing high-quality and culturally responsive instruction that supports EL students in acquiring English proficiency and mastering grade-level core content. REL Southwest, the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED), and other partners are working to support these ongoing efforts. Over the course of the partnership, REL Southwest staff will conduct research, identify evidence-based practices, and develop guidelines for analyzing data to support New Mexico’s priorities.

In this second post in our blog series from the Southwest English Learners (SWEL) Research Partnership, REL Southwest’s Brenda Arellano shares information and resources presented in a statewide event developed to support the partnership’s needs: Promising and Effective Practices for English Learner Students: Implementing Integrated and Designated English Language Development (ELD). (Read the first post in this series: Part 1.)

Over the course of 2018 and the opening months of 2019, REL Southwest and our partners in the Southwest English Learners (SWEL) Research Partnership with the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) have been working collaboratively to identify high-priority needs of English learner (EL) students in New Mexico. One of the goals the SWEL partnership supports is identifying effective instructional practices for English learners and increasing the use of these practices in the state’s classrooms.

Related to that goal, the SWEL partnership expressed a need for professional development on embedding English language development (ELD) into various instructional models for English learner students. A new English language proficiency (ELP) indicator, as required under the Every Student Succeeds Act, will count toward district and school accountability ratings. Districts have expressed support for the ELP accountability rating, although they are apprehensive about being fully prepared to meet the instructional needs of their English learner students. NMPED has increased their guidance, program monitoring, and desk reviews of English learner services and continues to explore ways to enhance their capacity to support districts. In response to the needs of NMPED and districts, REL Southwest developed a free statewide event, Promising and Effective Practices for English Learner Students: Implementing Integrated and Designated English Language Development. The event was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 30, 2018, and presentation slides and other conference materials are archived on our website.

The event brought together experts in the field and district leaders from New Mexico and California to share educational practices and findings from California with New Mexico districts. We had a tremendous response, with more than 100 teachers, principals and assistant principals, English learner support coaches, English learner coordinators, and district central office staff attending from across the state—signaling that an important professional development need was being addressed.

Participants learned about California’s new approach to educational equity for ELs as well as the theory and research informing ELD. Practitioners from California shared their state’s approach to comprehensive English language development across disciplines. Participants also were given an overview of evidence-based tools and resources found in the state’s English language arts/ELD framework from a national expert on the REL Southwest team, Pamela Spycher. A key takeaway of the session was clarification on the differences between and the uses of integrated and designated ELD. Integrated ELD refers to lessons and practices that support ELs’ language development within subject matter teaching and learning throughout the day and across disciplines. Designated ELD takes place during a protected time of day to support the explicit development of English language knowledge, skills, and abilities. Event participants reviewed grade-level appropriate examples and vignettes of integrated and designated content instruction in English language arts/literacy.

A focus of the event was application, so participants engaged in a hands-on demonstration lesson analyzing cohesion in a sample text. REL Southwest expert Liz Jameyson walked attendees through the student writing exercise to demonstrate how to teach content and language simultaneously. Participants learned techniques to help students make meaning from text and to explore the language of the text type. The activity was based on the theory of learning described in Dr. Spycher’s white paper Scaffolding Writing Through the “Teaching and Learning Cycle.”

Participants also had the opportunity to hear perspectives from and ask questions of district leaders in the field from four school districts, three from New Mexico and one from California. The presentations addressed key challenges in each district supporting the strengths and needs of ELs and how they have responded to these challenges with promising district initiatives.

  • Berlinda Begay presented on behalf of Central Consolidated School District, which has a large percentage of EL students from Native American backgrounds. Her presentation focused on the contemporary challenges of Native American ELs, indigenous identity, language as culture, and indigenous pedagogy and ways of thought.
  • Renee Russ from Clovis Municipal Schools described the transformational process her district has undergone over the last several years from minimally serving EL students to a shift toward full compliance and commitment to serving the student population.
  • Ann Swickard and Richard Cisneros from Albuquerque Public Schools discussed a recent initiative to address ways to support schools serving ELs, and in particular ELs with disabilities, by creating a focus review process. The objective of the focus review process is to understand what systems are in place that support English learners and bilingual programs and how to support schools’ continued growth in providing high-quality instructional services.
  • Vanessa Girard of Sacramento City Unified School District, a district where nearly half the students are current or ever-EL students, discussed three critical points for supporting EL students:
    • Requiring a systems approach for effective professional learning
    • Understanding that teaching content and language simultaneously is complex and shortcuts cannot happen
    • Employing culturally sustaining teaching practices that address English learners’ academic needs

The event included time for participants to gather in multiple small-group sessions to share their understandings, aspirations, and challenges regarding the practices and how they could utilize their context-specific strengths to maximize opportunities to increase use in New Mexico classrooms.

Attendees reported they found the workshop useful and noted specific steps they anticipated taking as a result of the event, including creating their own ELD action plans and teams, conducting program evaluations and professional development for continuous improvement, exploring the California ELD framework, employing data-driven decisionmaking to support targeted implementation, and reaching out to the district presenters who had shared their experiences of supporting ELs to learn more about their implementation. Some suggested we host a future event focused on helping school leaders implement the structural reform efforts needed to support this work. REL Southwest looks forward to continued collaboration with NMPED and other stakeholders in identifying and increasing the use of effective EL instructional practices.


Spycher, P. (2017). Scaffolding writing through the “teaching and learning cycle.” San Francisco, CA: WestEd.

For more information about English Learners, REL Southwest suggests these resources:

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Author Information

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Brenda Arellano

Senior Researcher | REL Southwest