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What Are We Doing to Middle School English Learners? Findings and Recommendations for Change from a Study of California EL Programs (Research Report)

By Nanette Koelsch, Aída Walqui, Leslie Hamburger, Donna Gaarder, Alex Insaurralde, Mary Schmida, Steven Weiss, Peggy Estrada


Within the next decade, one in every four students in U.S. classrooms will be an English learner (EL). Furthermore, secondary students make up the fastest growing sector of the EL population. In middle school (and above), students who are English learners run out of time quickly. What are schools doing during the crucial middle school years to promote English learners’ accelerated access to academic language and grade-level, standards-based instruction? How will these students catch up and be able to compete in high school, in college, and on the job market?

This study concludes that based on findings in California, where 30 percent of the nation’s English learner students are educated, middle school EL programs are failing students and limiting their futures in profound ways.

Through interviews and other data from 13 school districts with the highest concentration of English learners in the state, and from 64 middle schools in those districts, researchers in the Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) program at WestEd mapped the education landscape for middle school English learner programs. The researchers also conducted in-depth observations in a subset of schools, which contextualize the study findings and recommendations.

In addition to the Research Report, a narrative summary is also available.

Resource Details

Product Information

Copyright: 2010
Format: PDF
Pages: 174
Publisher: WestEd

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