[lg policy] Texas: Policymakers Take Gates-Funded Trip to Study ELLs

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 13 14:04:47 UTC 2010

Policymakers Take Gates-Funded Trip to Study ELLs
By Mary Ann Zehr on July 12, 2010 5:09 PM

The American Youth Policy Forum has published a policy brief about
what state policymakers learned during a May "fact-finding trip" to
Austin, Texas, about the education of English-language learners. The
trip was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and focused on
a project, also funded by the Gates Foundation, to revamp instruction
for ELLs at the secondary level in Austin. (I'll mention here as well
that Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of Education Week,
has received some grants from the Gates Foundation.)

The project centers on the implementation of a professional
development model developed by Aída Walqui of WestEd called Quality
Teaching for English Learners, or QTEL, in the Austin Independent
School District. I've been very interested in QTEL and have been
wanting to take a fact-finding trip to Austin myself to see how the
approach to coaching content teachers on how to work with ELLs has
been working. It's a whole-school reform model based on the premise
that all teachers in a school need to ensure that ELLs have access to
rigorous academic content and that principals and other administrators
need to be on board with the effort as well, according to the policy
brief. You can find a description of QTEL by WestEd here.

Berkeley Policy Associates has embarked on a five-year random
assignment study of QTEL being underwritten by the U.S. Department of
Education, so we're likely to hear more about the effectiveness of the
educational approach in the next few years.

The participants of the fact-finding trip focused on the use of QTEL
at two Austin high schools, International High School and Lanier High
School. Since implementation of the approach, test scores have risen
for all students at these schools, with the greatest gains for ELLs,
the policy brief reports. Teachers at the schools report that QTEL has
given them a common instructional language and strategies they didn't
learn in pre-service training, according to the brief.

The visit also focused on what the Texas Education Agency does to
support the academic achievement of ELLs. The agency has formed a
working group on ELLs with representatives of various departments who
meet regularly and aim to "elevate the priority of ELL education
within TEA," the policy brief says.

The May trip included state education agency staff, state board of
education members, or policy advisers for governors from Illinois,
Kentucky, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

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