Magazine article Leadership

Making a Difference for English Learners: A Pilot Project Shows What Works Best to Help Administrators Develop the Leadership Skills and Knowledge Needed to Create Effective English Learner Programs

Magazine article Leadership

Making a Difference for English Learners: A Pilot Project Shows What Works Best to Help Administrators Develop the Leadership Skills and Knowledge Needed to Create Effective English Learner Programs

Article excerpt

Educational research often provides us with the vision and inspiration to improve instruction, but the reality of today's schools can make these goals difficult to achieve. This article explores how a unique partnership between university researchers and practitioners has helped school leaders develop and implement effective, research-based programs for English learners.

Why English learners? Why now?

In our state and across the nation, schools have become increasingly multilingual, diverse places: almost one out of every four students sitting in California classrooms today is designated as an English learner (California Department of Education). Such trends are likely to become even more dramatic, according to information gathered by the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (2008). They estimate that California's K-12 enrollment of English learners in the past decade has increased almost 20 percent, while the overall school population has remained relatively static.

But while student populations are changing, demographic shifts in teaching and administrative staff are not keeping pace. Current CDE statistics indicate that approximately 70 percent of teachers and 67 percent of school administrators in the state are white (not Hispanic), and many teachers and administrators do not share students' linguistic or socioeconomic backgrounds.

In response to the increasing EL population, teachers of English learners in our state have been required to obtain a CLAD (Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development) Certificate, or what is now known as an English Learner Endorsement. Yet, despite so many years of training teachers to work with English learners, no parallel opportunities or certification exist at the administrative level, despite the fact that some administrators may have left the classroom without having taught English learners.

Further, while many California administrators have completed CLAD training, they have few avenues for developing the leadership skills and knowledge necessary to create effective English learner programs and support teachers' efforts to provide effective classroom instruction for these students.

Stanford University's School of Education has long been involved in CLAD preparation for teachers. The current series of online CLAD courses (see ellib.stanford.edu) were developed under the guidance of professors Guadalupe Valdes and Kenji Hakuta, who recognized the need to provide administrators with specialized training.

Using a Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Stanford researchers, graduate students, and Modrite Archibeque, a former assistant superintendent, created a course specifically for principals--the Stanford Executive Program for School Leaders--which consists of videos, readings, and hands-on activities covering the following topics:

* legal and policy issues relating to English learner programs,

* second language acquisition theory,

* characteristics of immigrant English learners,

* English language development,

* content instruction for English learners,

* English learner assessment, and

* accountability for schools with English learners.

The Stanford Executive Program's materials expand upon Stanford's existing CLAD training resources, focusing on school leadership and English learner program development while also keeping in mind administrators' busy schedules, critical needs, and differing levels of English learner expertise.

Making the university-school connection

After creating these materials, Professor Valdes connected with Bill Barr, retired Monterey County superintendent of schools and adjunct professor, to find districts that might be interested in piloting such a program. Barr suggested that Salinas City Elementary School District, with Superintendent Donna Alonzo Vaughan at the helm, might be a perfect fit. …

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