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Best practices for high school English Language Development (ELD) courses — July 2018


Could you provide research on best practices for high school English language development (ELD) courses?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on best practices for high school ELD courses. The sources included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

Research References

Calderón, M., Slavin, R., & Sánchez, M. (2011). Effective instruction for English learners. The Future of Children, 21(1), 103–127. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The fastest-growing student population in U.S. schools today is children of immigrants, half of whom do not speak English fluently and are thus labeled English learners. Although the federal government requires school districts to provide services to English learners, it offers states no policies to follow in identifying, assessing, placing, or instructing them. Margarita Calderon, Robert Slavin, and Marta Sanchez identify the elements of effective instruction and review a variety of successful program models. During 2007–08, more than 5.3 million English learners made up 10.6 percent of the nation’s K–12 public school enrollment. Wide and persistent achievement disparities between these English learners and English-proficient students show clearly, say the authors, that schools must address the language, literacy, and academic needs of English learners more effectively. Researchers have fiercely debated the merits of bilingual and English-only reading instruction. In elementary schools, English learners commonly receive thirty minutes of English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction but attend general education classes for the rest of the day, usually with teachers who are unprepared to teach them. Though English learners have strikingly diverse levels of skills, in high school they are typically lumped together, with one teacher to address their widely varying needs. These in-school factors contribute to the achievement disparities. Based on the studies presented here, Calderon, Slavin, and Sanchez assert that the quality of instruction is what matters most in educating English learners. They highlight comprehensive reform models, as well as individual components of these models: school structures and leadership; language and literacy instruction; integration of language, literacy, and content instruction in secondary schools; cooperative learning; professional development; parent and family support teams; tutoring; and monitoring implementation and outcomes. As larger numbers of English learners reach America’s schools, K–12 general education teachers are discovering the need to learn how to teach these students. Schools must improve the skills of all educators through comprehensive professional development—an ambitious but necessary undertaking that requires appropriate funding.”

Sturman, H. (2014). Promoting student engagement during integrative lessons: A model classroom. CATESOL Journal, 24(1), 272–286. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Using integrative grammar- and vocabulary-related activities, the high school English language development (ELD) teacher in this qualitative case study engaged her students by involving them in their own education. Drawing on research addressing student engagement (Kelley, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Faller, 2010; Norton & Toohey, 2001; Ryan, 2008), I coded 25 hours of field notes for instances of engaged and noncompliant behavior during integrative activities over 6 months during the 2009–2010 school year. The focal teacher employed a mixed-methods approach, and I observed that engagement was high during activities that had students creatively manipulating new grammatical forms and vocabulary words in a variety of ways. My findings suggest that this teacher’s methods were generally successful in promoting the engagement of her high school ELD students.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

California Department of Education (CDE) –

From the website: “We oversee the state’s diverse public school system, which is responsible for the education of more than six million children and young adults in more than 10,000 schools with 295,000 teachers. We are in charge of enforcing education law and regulations and continuing to reform and improve public school programs.”

REL West note: CDE has published a document relevant to this request, as follows:

California Department of Education. (2015). The English language arts/English language development framework for California public schools: Kindergarten through grade twelve. Sacramento, CA: Author. Retrieved from (see chapter 7, Content and Pedagogy, Grades Nine Through Twelve).

Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) –

From the website: CAL’s mission is to promote language learning and cultural understanding by serving as a trusted source for research, resources, and policy analysis. Through its work, CAL seeks solutions to issues involving language and culture as they relate to access and equity in education and society around the globe.”

REL West note: An event in 2016 is relevant to this request, as follows:

“Instructional Approaches for Secondary English Learner and Emergent Bilingual Students Content Area: High School/Secondary Education.” Retrieved from

World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) –

From the website: WIDA advances academic language development and academic achievement for children and youth who are culturally and linguistically diverse through high quality standards, assessments, research, and professional learning for educators.

REL West note: WIDA has two resources relevant to this request, as follows:

Two publications, the2012 amplification of the English language development standards, Kindergarten – grade 12 and the English language proficiency standards and resource guide, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, 2007 edition, could help inform instruction. Retrieved from and

WIDA Consortium. (2012). 2012 amplification of the English language development standards, Kindergarten–grade 12. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved from


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

[(“English language development courses” OR “ELD courses”) AND (“high school” OR “secondary”) AND (“best practices” OR “effective practices”)]; [(“High school” OR “secondary”) AND (“ELD courses)”]; “High school English Language Development”

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published within the last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.