WestEd is pleased to announce the agency has been awarded a five-year grant from the National Center for Education Research (NCER), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), to lead one of two new national R&D centers that will focus on innovative solutions to improving opportunities and achievement for English Learners in secondary settings.

The National Research and Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners, led by Principal Investigator and Center Director Aída Walqui at WestEd, is compelled by an urgent need to better understand and address the needs of English Learners in secondary schools.

Current research shows that more than one third of all English Learners are enrolled in the secondary grades and these students currently face two significant challenges as they work simultaneously to develop their English language proficiency and subject-matter knowledge: barriers to enrollment in challenging courses and scarcity of quality learning opportunities.

“My teammates and I, as well as our partners, are thrilled that IES is giving us this opportunity to carry out research and development to serve a population of students that continues to be overlooked and underserved, in spite of their immense potential,” says Walqui.

“The time is right to redress the education for secondary English Learners. Our proposed portfolio of work seeks to create actionable understandings of educational barriers as well as processes and tools that will create equitable learning environments and quality learning.”

WestEd is partnering with a world-class team of research institutions — Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, and the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at the University of California-Los Angeles — to lead the new Center at WestEd. The proposed team brings together seasoned experts with deep experience in research including longitudinal data analysis, assessment for English Learners, and high-quality curriculum design.

WestEd Chief Executive Officer Glen Harvey says, “Persistent differences in academic achievement outcomes for English Learners point to the need for us to work collaboratively to address systemic barriers and accelerate learning and outcomes for English Learners.”

“Our work and approach will further enable English Learners to realize their full potential in community, college, and career,” says Harvey.

The proposed Center draws on sociocultural and ecological theories to identify “nested and interlinked systems” that will be studied and improved. Relatedly, the work of the WestEd-operated Center will develop rich, educative curricula aimed at strengthening classroom learning opportunities for English Learners in English language arts (ELA) and math, while modeling for teachers how they can help students direct their own learning, promote classroom inclusion, and ensure academic success for English Learners.

About the Advisory Board
The Center will draw on the expertise of distinguished researchers on English Learner education to provide sound advice and feedback:
• Kenji Hakuta, Professor at Stanford University
• Guadalupe Valdés, Professor of Education at Stanford University
• Gabriela Uro, Director for English Learner Policy and Research for the Council of Great City Schools
• Ester de Jong, Professor at the University of Florida
• Carol Booth Olson, Associate Professor at the University of California-Irvine
• Peggy Estrada, Associate Research Scientist at the University of California-Santa Cruz
• Cynthia Coburn, Professor at Northwestern University
• John Willett, Professor at Harvard University

For more information about the National Research and Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners, please visit the Inside IES Research blog.