The National Research & Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners at WestEd works to address the urgent need to understand better and support the needs of English Learners in secondary schools.

Experts from the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA, in partnership with WestEd, make up the Center’s research team. Guadalupe Valdés, Professor Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, is an advisor.

“In the United States, when we bring new people into our society and into our schools, we have two things to do,” said Valdés in a conversation on perspectives on English language learning with WestEd’s Aída Walqui, Principal Investigator and Center Director.

“Clearly, we want [English Learners] to acquire the societal language. And we want to give them access to subject matter content. These two goals are not the same. They often quarrel with one another. When educators set up instructional arrangements, they focus on ‘let’s get the language in,’ as if that will give students access to the content. In that case, they are dealing with the content as if someone who isn’t yet able to work proficiently in that language cannot yet access the content and subject matter they need.”

English Learners are charged with developing subject-specific conceptual understandings, analytic practices, and the English language simultaneously. The Center seeks to ensure that teachers of English Learners have the tools and processes to effectively carry out this work.

Another critical part of the Center’s mission is identifying and describing the systemic barriers preventing secondary English Learners from successfully accessing the general curriculum, and developing and testing innovative, educative curriculum materials that will enable them to reach their full potential in community, college, and career.

The Center’s four studies are expected to produce findings in 2024:

  • Study 1: Course Access examines how course access and course-taking patterns are related to students’ academic outcomes to offer solutions under the control of educators.
  • Study 2: Co-Teaching and Related Models documents how co-teaching and teacher collaboration models vary nationally, along with their challenges and successes. The Center will provide guidelines for effective collaboration.
  • Study 3: English Language Arts Curriculum seeks to estimate the impact of the new critical dialogic interaction-based 8th grade English language arts curriculum on English Learners’ educational outcomes. Three educative replacement units are being iteratively developed and will be tested next year.
  • Study 4: Mathematics Curriculum estimates the impact of the new critical dialogic interaction-based mathematics curriculum on English Learner mathematics achievement. These conceptually driven lessons are intended to be used in summer bridge courses for English Learners entering high school.

Save the Date

On May 8–9, 2023, the National Research & Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners is co-hosting the national conference, Improving Instruction, Assessment, and Policies for Secondary English Learners Across the Content Areas, in Washington, DC, in partnership with the Center for English Learner Success and the Institute of Education Sciences.

Learn more about the conference and registration.

Subscribe to the Center’s newsletter, Where the Research Leads, to receive Center updates, including research-based findings.

Visit the Center’s website for more information.