English Learners Research Alliance

This alliance seeks to use data and evidence to understand problems of practice related to the diversity of English learners (ELs) and to explore the education programs and services that best meet EL students' needs. Alliance work includes developing a research agenda, conducting research, and supporting the use of data and evidence to improve programs, practice, and policy related to English learners.

Goals

  • Identify promising programs and interventions for English learners
  • Improve programs and interventions to increase academic growth for English learners in Texas
  • Identify problems of practice related to instructional services for English learners
  • Improve literacy achievement among English learners in grades K–12

Alliance Flyer

screen cap of alliance flyer

Work Updates

2017

Summer/Fall

During this period, the English Learners Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to discuss alliance projects and to plan for sunsetting the alliance when the current REL Southwest contract ends in November 2017.

The alliance convened for two final in-person meetings on October 9 in Austin, Texas, and on October 10 in Edinburg, Texas. Members who could not attend had the option of joining the second meeting through a virtual connection. On both days, REL Southwest staff shared the results of the alliance's studies and technical assistance projects:

Each meeting ended with a discussion about sunsetting the research alliance and ways members could remain in touch. Members were then recognized for their contributions and given certificates of appreciation for their participation in and commitment to the alliance.

In late October, selected alliance members attended a virtual meeting to discuss ways to disseminate and promote the alliance's reports and resources. Members also discussed how they might continue to use and share the work of the alliance.

Spring

During this quarter, the English Learners Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to discuss alliance projects and plan and hold events. The alliance is in the process of planning a virtual meeting for early August as well as an in-person meeting later in the year.

On March 2, the alliance convened via webinar for a quarterly meeting. The agenda included planning for an upcoming research-to-practice bridge event, updates on alliance projects, and whether members want to continue some or all aspects of the alliance's work after the current REL Southwest contract ends in November 2017.

On March 21, the alliance sponsored a bridge event webinar titled "Research Discussion: Studies on the Academic Progress of English Learners." The webinar spotlighted two recently released REL Northwest research studies on English learner students' time to reclassification and advanced course enrollment and performance.

During this quarter, staff also completed the Early Warning and Risk Prevention for English Learner Students project. This project provided three Texas school districts with individualized technical assistance on developing and using early warning systems to target English learner students at risk of falling behind academically or of dropping out. This assistance included building staff capacity in using longitudinal data and risk indicators to flag students early in the trajectory toward failing to meet specified benchmarks. At the next alliance meeting, the project team plans to share a presentation on this work, including speakers from one of the three districts involved.

In addition, staff continued drafting final reports for the Trends in the Identification and Provision of Services to Gifted and Talented English Learner Students in Texas technical assistance project, the Correlational Study of Teachers Assigned to English Learner Students in Houston Independent School District, and the Trajectories to Language Proficiency and Content-Area Mastery for Texas Hispanic Ever-English Learner Students study. These reports are expected to be published later this year.

Winter

During this quarter, the English Learners Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions, discuss alliance projects, and plan and hold events. In addition, REL Southwest staff explored potential collaborations with other RELs for a research-to-practice bridge event focused on supporting English learner students.

In February, the liaison coordinated with members to plan the alliance's next meeting, which was held virtually on March 2, 2017. Goals for this meeting were to obtain member input on possible topics for a bridge event, provide updates on alliance projects, and discuss the future of the alliance beyond the REL's five-year contract cycle, which runs through November 2017.

Progress also continued on alliance projects. REL Southwest staff completed the data analysis and began drafting the final report for the Trends in the Identification and Provision of Services to Gifted and Talented English Learner Students in Texas project. On the Early Warning and Risk Prevention for English Learner Students project, staff continued to support the community of practice and to provide individualized technical assistance to the participating districts, including site visits in February.

In addition, staff continued to make revisions based on IES review to the final reports for the Correlational Study of Teachers Assigned to English Learner Students in Houston Independent School District and the Trajectories to Language Proficiency and Content-Area Mastery for Texas Hispanic Ever-English Learner Students study.

2016

Fall

During this quarter, the English Learners Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions and concerns and to plan and hold events.

On November 14, alliance members participated in a blended meeting—attending virtually and in person—in Austin, Texas. Former alliance liaison, Linda Cavazos, and new liaison, Dalia Zabala, co-facilitated the meeting. Nine members and six REL Southwest staff participated. Veronica Ruiz de Castilla, principal investigator on the Correlational Study of Teachers Assigned to English Learner Students in Houston Independent School District, presented information about the study.

At the same meeting, Dr. Cavazos and Zabala presented information about three key Texas teacher preparation programs' admission and completion requirements for English learner (EL) teachers. Members then discussed the programs' commonalities and limitations in effectively preparing teacher candidates to meet the needs of EL students. Alliance members received additional project updates before the meeting adjourned.

With the school year well underway, district staffing changes led to some changes in the alliance membership. Three members moved on, while five new members joined: Karina Chapa, Chelsea Cornelius, Sonia Domingues, David Kauffman, and Aline Orr. Welcome new members!

Work continued on alliance projects as well. REL Southwest received approval to begin a new project, Trends in the Identification and Provision of Services to Gifted and Talented English Learner Students in Texas. This study will examine the identification of gifted/talented (GT) EL students in Texas public elementary schools over six school years. The study will also identify promising GT program models and interventions. The findings will inform ongoing state efforts to increase the representation of special populations in GT programs.

Staff moved forward with facilitating a Community of Practice (CoP) and providing individualized technical support to districts participating in the Early Warning and Risk Prevention for EL Students project. In addition, staff made revisions based on IES review to the final reports for the Correlational Study of Teachers Assigned to English Learner Students in Houston Independent School District and the Trajectories to Language Proficiency and Content-Area Mastery for Texas Hispanic Ever-English Learner Students Study.

Summer

During this quarter, the English Learners Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions and concerns and to plan and hold events. The alliance liaison, Dr. Linda Cavazos, is transitioning to other work and began mentoring the new liaison, Dalia Zabala. They will co-facilitate the alliance's next meeting, scheduled for November.

On June 1, an alliance workshop was held in Austin, Texas, with participants attending both in person and by webinar. Presentations included a tool to help the alliance prioritize its research agenda and updates on alliance projects.

On June 17, an "Early Warning Systems for English Learners" workshop was held at Sharyland Independent School District in Mission, Texas. Provided as part of the Early Warning and Risk Prevention for English Learner Students technical assistance series, the all-day workshop included training and expert presentations on early warning systems for participating district teams. Video footage was also shot for the REL Early Warning Systems learning series.

On June 20, REL Southwest sponsored Diane August, Ph.D., a research expert in the area of English learners and bilingual education, as a keynote speaker in a bridge event at the Effective Border Schools Conference in South Padre Island, Texas. Dr. August's keynote presentation was titled "Research-Based Practices for Improving Academic Outcomes for English Learners." The alliance liaison assisted and conducted member outreach at the conference.

Staff completed data analysis and began drafting the final reports for the Correlational Study of Teachers Assigned to English Learner Students in Houston Independent School District and the Trajectories to Language Proficiency and Content-Area Mastery for Texas Hispanic Ever-English Learner Students Study.

Spring

During this quarter, the English Learners Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions and concerns and to plan upcoming workshops and bridge events.

Work progressed on planning the first workshop in the Early Warning and Risk Prevention for English Learner Students technical assistance series. The workshop, held June 17 at Sharyland Independent School District in Mission, Texas, was also used to film footage for the REL Early Warning Systems Learning Series. During the quarter, staff identified districts to participate in interviews and developed the workshop materials. A community of practice (CoP) for the participating districts and for REL Southwest staff has been created as well. The CoP meetings are scheduled to run through December 2016. The next event in the series is a webinar scheduled for September 7.

Planning also continued on a bridge event keynote presentation, which was held on June 20 in conjunction with the Effective Border Schools Conference. Diane August, Ph.D., an expert in English learner and bilingual education, gave the keynote presentation, titled "Research-Based Practices for Improving Academic Outcomes for English Learners."

Work also continued on the Correlational Study of Teachers Assigned to English Learner Students in Houston Independent School District and the Trajectories to Language Proficiency and Content-Area Mastery for Texas Hispanic Ever-English Learner Students study.

Winter

The English Learners Reserch Alliance held a quarterly meeting in December 2015. Agenda items included bilingual educator preparation and professional development, which is a priority topic on the alliance's research agenda. Members also received project updates.

During the quarter, the liaison and alliance members communicated regularly to address questions and concerns and to plan alliance workshops and bridge events. Several meetings were held to finalize the bridge event "Helping Newcomers Succeed Through Effective Programs and Practices," held March 8 in Houston. The liaison participated in member outreach to increase attendance at the free all-day event, which drew more than 100 participants and received extremely positive feedback.

Several meetings were also held to discuss the newly approved Early Warning and Risk Prevention for English Learner Students project. This technical assistance project includes a series of workshops and webinars to be held this year in Texas, with the first in Mission (Sharyland Independent School District) on June 17, 2016. This free all-day workshop will provide training for teams from the participating districts and the Region One Education Service Center. The workshop will also be used to film footage for the REL Early Warning Systems Learning Series. Subsequent workshops and webinars are planned for summer and fall.

Several teleconferences were held to plan for a bridge event in conjuction with the Effective Border Schools Conference, being held June 20‑21 in Texas. The bridge event will feature a keynote presentation by Diane August, Ph.D., titled "Research-Based Practices for Improving Academic Outcomes for English Learners." Linda Cavazos, Ph.D., alliance liaison, will assist as well as convene members and continue member outreach at the conference.

Work continued on the Correlational Study of Teachers Assigned to English Learner Students in Houston Independent School District and the Trajectories to Language Proficiency and Content Area Mastery for Texas Hispanic Ever-English Learner Students Study.

2015

Fall

In September 2015, alliance members met for quarterly meetings in South Texas (Edinburg) and Central Texas (Austin) to discuss a priority topic on the alliance's research agenda—EL instructional models and programs. Alliance members representing the Valley View Independent School District presented the Medical Spanish Minor program, an exemplary secondary Advanced Placement (AP) instructional program in South Texas. In addition, alliance members received updates on current and proposed alliance projects and studies and provided feedback. Also during this quarter, the alliance's Newcomer Working Group met to discuss a face-to-face newcomer bridge event being planned for February 2016.

Summer

In May 2015, members of the English Learners Research Alliance met for quarterly meetings in South Texas (Edinburg) and Central Texas (Austin). At the meetings, three alliance members from different areas of the state gave presentations highlighting their districts' English learner (EL) instructional programming models and the academic growth of the students in the programs. The focus of these presentations relates to a key topic on the alliance’s research agenda.

During this quarter, the alliance liaison also conducted a site visit to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. The site visit provided outreach and engagement for members and served as informal needs sensing. In addition, the alliance’s Newcomer Working Group held a blended (face-to-face and teleconference) meeting to discuss newcomer ELs. The group decided to plan a newcomer bridge event for late Fall 2015 or early Spring 2016.

In July 2015, REL Southwest conducted the bridge event “Facilitating Professional Learning Communities to Support English Learners” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This all-day event, which introduced the REL Southwest’s new publication Professional Learning Communities Facilitator’s Guide, helped participants learn how to assist a professional learning community in applying the recommendations in the What Works Clearinghouse Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School practice guide.

Also in July, REL Southwest held a two-part blended event in Austin, Texas. The all-day event began with a bridge event session titled “Building Biliteracy Instruction, Programs, and Services,” followed by a cross-alliance workshop titled “Designing Intensive Programs and Services for English Learners.” The presentations featured strategies for planning, supporting, and improving instructional services, programs, and interventions for English learners.

Spring

In February and March 2015, REL Southwest staff delivered a two-part workshop series titled Understanding Logic Models to the members of the English Learners and Texas Hispanic STEM Research Alliances who live in South Texas. Members hope to use the knowledge they gained to inform principal effectiveness evaluations, develop more structure for federal program evaluations, improve and update current logic models, and inform planning of new programs.

During this quarter, the alliance liaison also conducted a series of site visits in four school districts in Central and South Texas. In the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District (ISD), the liaison visited four schools and met with alliance members at the central office to learn about the district's successful school programs targeting newcomer English learners (ELs). In Pharr, Texas, the liaison visited Valley View ISD, where she met with an alliance member, district staff, students, and parents to learn about the district's Spanish Medical Minor program and other successful school programs targeting ELs. In the El Paso area, the liaison visited a school in Fabens ISD to observe its multilingual program and gifted and talented dual language program. While there, she also met with a small group of area alliance members representing multiple districts. In Houston ISD, the liaison visited two elementary schools and met with central office staff to learn about the district's dual language and newcomer programming. These site visits provided outreach and engagement for members and served as informal needs sensing. Lessons learned about EL programs, models, and services in Texas districts will be shared with all alliance members at future meetings, as these topics relate to the alliance's research focus.

Also during this quarter, the alliance's Academic Trajectories Study Working Group met via teleconference in March and April to discuss and provide targeted feedback on the proposed study Academic Trajectories and Risk Indicators for English Learners in Texas. The liaison met with an alliance member at Education Service Center (ESC) Region 1 in Edinburg, Texas, to continue discussions regarding plans for an October EL event. And in March, the liaison networked with multiple alliance members in individual and small groups at national conferences.

Winter

On November 10, 2014, alliance members participated in the Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School bridge event webinar. In December, the alliance liaison went on multiple site visits in the Houston, Texas, area. These site visits served to reaffirm to the alliance members that REL Southwest is interested in their feedback on the draft research agenda and in the issues they are facing in relation to English learners. Some recurrent themes that emerged from these site visits are the need for information on designing newcomer centers and the need for best programming in serving English learners (in particular, forever-English learners, recent immigrants, and English learners whose parents have denied services).

In January 2015, members convened for the alliance quarterly meeting, held both in Austin and Edinburg, Texas. The alliance's goals and research agenda were reviewed and revised. In addition, two topical working groups were formed: the ELL Academic Trajectories Working Group and the Newcomer Working Group. During January, the liaison also conducted site visits in the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District to observe its newcomer centers.

2014

Fall

The English Learners Research Alliance, REL Southwest's newest alliance, was launched in October 2014. On October 7, staff made an initial recruitment visit to Education Service Center (ESC) Region 1 in Edinburg, Texas, to meet with bilingual directors from South Texas. On October 14, an alliance kickoff meeting was held in McAllen, Texas, one day before the Texas Association of Bilingual Education Conference at the McAllen Convention Center. On October 23, a second alliance kickoff meeting was held at SEDL headquarters in Austin, Texas. Attendees at the kickoff meetings learned about the REL work and discussed the alliance's proposed research agenda. The alliance, which will focus initially on Texas, includes more than 65 members representing school districts and regional education service centers. The alliance members are currently reviewing research priorities generated at the kickoff meetings.