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Tips to Create Successful ELL Programs

Some advice from ELL leaders in the Kent (Wash.) School District and Washington County (Md.) Public Schools:

Monitor and use balanced assessments.

District leaders must understand assessing and monitoring student progress using formative assessments in reading and math, according to Israel Vela, the executive director of student and family engagement at the Kent (Wash.) School District. “How are you monitoring your students’ progress against state, local and national standards? If you’re just monitoring them based on one assessment or an assessment that is not aligned to standards, you will make a decision that is not aligned with the goal of having each student meet the standards regardless of their label [as ELL],” Vela adds.


Work with and exchange ideas with other states and districts, and share what you know that has worked based on data, Vela says. “What are the kind of gains you are expecting versus what you are getting?” he asks. Make ELLs everyone’s responsibility. “Teaching English language skills to ELLs is the responsibility of all school staff, and we work hard to give all staff the tools they need to be even more successful with diverse learners,” says Paula Moore, supervisor for ELL and world languages in the Washington County (Md.) Public Schools.

Practice parent outreach.

“Parent outreach and the importance of making parents feel very much a part of their students’ educational process is key,” Moore says. Vela recommends implementing a literacy program to help families with limited English proficiency to navigate the system so they can push their own children to excel.

Take risks and use innovation.

Under Moore’s leadership in Washington County, working with the community college and giving students a chance to get college credit in high school has helped them believe they can go to college.