Skip to main content
Student Speaking on Panel

English Learners

Person with chat box graphic

English Learners (ELs) are the fastest growing population of public school students in the US. Close to 6 million ELs are enrolled in public schools, an increase of more than 100 percent since 1911. MAEC has a proven record of providing support to address the needs for ELs. Our services include conducting needs assessments, goal setting in collaboration with clients, technical assistance, training, coaching, and project evaluation. Our staff provides research-based approaches to improve the overall educational outcomes for ELs.


Community Resource Mapping – English Learners

MAEC uses a strengths-based approach for asset mapping, since often the best solutions come from within the communities in which our districts/schools reside. These key stakeholders include districts, schools, communities, and families all who are seeking to increase student achievement. To this end, MAEC conducts community walks and community resource mapping to identify potential partners and allies for effective and efficient delivery of services. This process includes attention to alignment between district and school needs and priorities so together partners can build the social and human capital that will help students and staff thrive.

Comprehensive Needs Assessment – English Learners

Beginning with a disaggregated data analysis of student achievement, student discipline, and school climate, MAEC is able to effectively determine client strengths and areas of need. This collaborative inquiry approach enables MAEC to examine multiple sources of data. Using a culturally responsive and equity framework, further creates opportunities to develop operational action plans to tackle complex challenges that pose barriers to gains in student achievement.

Culturally Responsive Family, School, and Community Engagement – English Learners

A family is a child’s first teacher. When families’ partner with schools and community organizations, children thrive. To produce the best results for students, MAEC builds the capacity of families, educators, schools, and community organizations to collaborate, exchange ideas, and develop and implement policies and action plans. We build on the collaborative strengths of families, educators, and community members so they can each contribute to the development and success of diverse students.

Culturally Responsive Leadership – English Learners

Leaders set the tone and expectations of any organization. They do this by responding effectively to the diverse communities that they serve, being asset-focused, and proactive problem solvers. Culturally responsive leadership technical assistance provides a multi-dimensional framework that builds capacity of educators who are culturally informed and highly skilled in culturally responsive practice.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy – English Learners

Culturally responsive pedagogy is a method and practice of teaching in which educators and providers build on the assets that their students and families bring into the classroom. As the populations of our students grow more diverse, staff must be better prepared to respond to their needs. This requires a greater understanding and knowledge of their students’ culture, strengths, and socio-political contexts. With this practice, schools can become hubs of learning focused on the well being of the students and families being served.

Policy & Procedural Reviews – English Learners

In educational systems, policies and procedures often inform practice. However, some policies or procedures may have unintended consequences when implemented that serve to further silo organizational efforts to close opportunity gaps. To address this challenge, MAEC provides state departments, districts, schools, and organizations with policy and procedural reviews to ensure they are equitable, effective, and comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Ensuring Educational Equity for English Learners

Under Title VI and Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, school districts are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, and national origin. This training highlights the requirements regarding the provision of services for ELs with an emphasis on the identification, placement, provision of alternative programs for ELs, access to challenging content, and assessment. Legal rights of parents/guardians are also included as part of MAC’s training.

Navigating the School System for Families of English Learners

This training helps build the capacity of parent involvement coordinators, Title I & Title III specialists, and community leaders to effectively engage families of English Learners in their children’s education. The training focuses on: (1) Creating welcoming schools and classrooms; (2) Considerations for engagement of immigrant families; (3) Linking family engagement to learning; and (4) Models for effectively engaging EL families in their children’s education.

Working Effectively with English Learners

This training helps build the capacity of administrators and staff to design and implement effective programs to meet the needs of English Learners. MAC’s training highlights the cultural context of English Learners, the levels of English proficiency needed for academic success, how to effectively teach Common Core and/or challenging content to ELs, and strategies for creating inclusive schools and classrooms.

Office of the State Superintendent of Education

MAEC partners with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) for the District of Columbia to ensure that English Learners gain academic and language proficiency to prepare them to be global leaders.  MAEC staff sits on the Title III Advisory Council and provides the following technical assistance:

  • Development of an adapted monitoring tool to assess Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) services to English Learners;
  • Analysis of initial monitoring results and revised action plans to support LEAs in the delivery of EL services; and
  • Provide key findings and recommendations based on the results of monitoring.
This targeted technical assistance resulted in a comprehensive Title III Monitoring Process as a way to review how LEAs are developing and implementing Title III programs in accordance to federal, state, and local regulations and identify LEAs in need of support.  In addition, MAEC’s involvement in the Title III Advisory Council resulted in the development of an informational multilingual video about the rights of English Learners and their families in the District’s schools. This user friendly video has been produced in English and Spanish with subtitles in Amharic, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and French.

¡Adelante! Moving Forward!

A Guide to Empower Parents of English Learners to Advocate for their Children Book Cover of ¡Adelante! Moving Forward! In 2010, approximately five million students in the United States were identified as English Learners (ELs). These students have different levels of English proficiency and number of years of formal education. While this growing number of ELs represents a considerable challenge, it is the responsibility of schools to ensure that ELs have equal access to quality education that enables them to progress academically while learning English. Currently there is a substantial body of legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which protects the rights of these students. Unfortunately, many parents of ELs are not aware of these laws and therefore cannot advocate for their children. ¡Adelante! Moving Forward! A Guide to Empower Parents of English Learners to Advocate for their Children is designed as an informational training tool to provide trainers of immigrant parents and parent leaders with user friendly and accessible information regarding the legal responsibilities of educational agencies serving ELs and the rights of parents of ELs. The publication was developed through a partnership between the MAEC and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Parental Readiness and Empowerment Program (PREP). It is available in English and Spanish. View the Table of Contents for ¡Adelante! Request a free copy of this publication. [gravityform id="16" title="false" description="false"]

Post Image Bio-Social-Emotional Needs of Immigrant Students, with a Focus on Central Americans

Part of CEE’s Exploring Equity Issues series, this paper discusses social and emotional learning (SEL) and the special challenges faced by immigrant students in this area. For immigrant students, the challenge of SEL is compounded by their simultaneous navigation of social and academic displacement, trauma, and family reunification. The paper concludes with both school-wide and teacher strategies that respond to immigrant student needs.  

Bio-Social-Emotional Needs of Immigrant Students, with a Focus on Central Americans

PART I: BACKGROUND Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process by which individuals learn to understand and manage their emotions, maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. For immigrant students, this process holds additional challenges, as they learn these skills while also navigating complex emotional reactions to social and academic displacement, trauma, and family reunification. “I am from El Salvador. My uncle, brother and I decided to come to the U.S. because the gangs were threatening us. One of my friends was killed. On the way here we were kidnapped in Mexico and held for three months until a ransom was sent. There was another man with us who had all five of his fingers on one hand cut off by the kidnappers, and then they stabbed him to death right in front of my brother and I. Once we got to the border, we were caught by ICE and my uncle was sent back home. I saw a counselor when I first got here, and now I don’t have nightmares anymore.”


Immigration to the United States from Central America has long been driven by economic difficulties and violence. In the last four decades, these countries have experienced civil wars, crippling poverty, increased gang violence and narco-trafficking, and disintegration of civil structures. According to World Atlas statistics, since 2014 El Salvador and Honduras have been named as countries with the highest murder rates that are not at war. Children are either targeted for recruitment into an expansive network of gang activity or are living under their threat. Consequently, the flow of children entering the United States has increased as they seek safety. These children do not have refugee status, but rather must independently find and fund legal counsel. Without such assistance, they risk being deported to the countries they fled. From the years 2013-2015, the Migration Policy Institute reported a spike in Central American unaccompanied minors crossing the Mexican border into the United States, totaling 77,000 during this period. High Point High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, currently has the largest numbers of ESOL students in the state. The total 2017-2018 ESOL enrollment thus far has topped 1,200 students. With increased anxiety over changing immigration policies, ESOL students are withdrawing or transferring to other schools at unseen rates; over 400 ESOL students have withdrawn from High Point this academic year. Students report that they are receiving deportation and voluntary departure notices, are re-locating to more affordable housing, or are choosing to work in order to prepare for a return to their home country, in spite of the safety risks.


Newcomer immigrant students place particular demands on school staff, not only for specialized instructional interventions, but for social and mental health supports as well. Improving instruction requires awareness of intercultural communication and appropriate responses to students exposed to trauma, family loss, uncertain legal future, and cultural adjustment. Immigrant children are more likely to face numerous risks to healthy development (Close & Solberg, 2008). Biological needs to consider include access to health care and immunizations, interruption of eating/sleeping patterns, pre-existing health conditions, and the impact of chronic stress and trauma on the body. Limited exposure to sun and physical exercise also take their toll on newcomer immigrants from countries where most of their daily life took place outdoors. Social needs for belonging within their academic community cannot be overstated. A study of Latino students in the United States confirmed that students who felt more connected with their teachers and their school were also more motivated to attend school, which was in turn associated with better achievement (Close and Solberg, 2008). Newcomer students need opportunities to build relationships with their new peers, experience success in their new language and school, and begin the long task of attachment at home with biological parents or caretakers who may be virtual strangers. Newcomer students also need assistance with acculturation and orientation regarding school procedures, U.S. education norms, legal requirements such as attendance and immunization, and community resource information on low-cost health care and legal services. The students need an opportunity to understand that their culture shock, adjustment, and challenging relationships with unfamiliar family members in the context of time – that their current emotional state, be it stress, depression or anger, is temporary. In 2016, High Point conducted an anonymous survey of 294 newcomer students from Central America to help understand the scope of their social-emotional needs. Responses revealed that 52% had experienced gang/community violence in their home countries or on their journey to the United States, 35% had interrupted education, 45% had a loved one die in the previous year, 37% reported experiencing insomnia or nightmares regularly, and 79% reported a need for legal counseling. As trauma research has documented, children who have experienced trauma, fear, separation from family, and isolation are subject to a variety of psychological stressors and mental health challenges. Studies have shown some develop anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other conditions. Once in the United States, these students continue to worry about family members and friends who remain in their country; family members become ill, friends are murdered, relatives disappear. Trauma can cause interrupted sleep, poor concentration, anger/aggression, physical pain and/or social withdrawal. Trauma also can interfere with attention, memory, and cognition – all skills that are fundamental in learning. PART II: WHAT CAN WE DO?


Provide staff training on behaviors to watch for. School-wide interventions begin with training staff so educators are familiar with the geo-political causes of immigration, and the impacts of trauma. Staff training is necessary in order to understand and interpret behaviors a student may exhibit during their adjustment period – be it silence, disorganization, or disengagement. Provide immigrant students with specialized orientation. School staff can also provide a sense of safety to students and facilitate mastery of their new surroundings through teaching expectations and routines with visual reminders, supporting a culture of respect, and correcting with warm firmness. Bilingual orientation guides help with the task of mastery. These guides may include: a map of the school; information on community resources; important staff to know; websites and apps that can support English language learning; school procedures regarding code of conduct, absences, library use, and inclement weather policies; tips for managing culture shock; and strategies for building trust with new family members. Bilingual social work and family support staff are vital. School staff must also help newcomer students be aware of gang activity. Unaccompanied minors in particular are at an increased risk for recruitment either at school or in their communities. Students need to know the methods for recruitment (intimidation, skipping parties, drug trafficking), refusal techniques, and school staff who can support them.


As teachers, we can draw on the research and interventions for trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive learning environments to respond to immigrant student needs. Marlene Wong of the Support for Students Exposed to Trauma program has designed school-based curriculum to support school-wide understanding and interventions to mitigate the impact of past trauma. All the best instructional techniques we have will depend on the student’s availability to engage with and learn from us. This need to belong has long been recognized as one of the most important psychological needs in humans (Maslow, 1943). Hence, our most essential tool in engaging with all youth, especially youth with traumatic histories, is ourselves – our warm, caring, dependable, steady, relational, limit-setting selves. As educators and support staff, we provide this necessary positive mirroring and a belief that students’ resilience is stronger than their challenges. Use mindfulness techniques in the classroom. Resiliency and post-trauma growth research emphasizes the need for students to learn emotional regulation, how to relate positively to others, and how to reason through challenges. Mindfulness techniques and grounding exercises can help students by teaching an awareness of their body and their mind in the present moment. Using five minutes of class on a routine bases for check-ins related to self-awareness (emotional state, physical and cognitive energy), deep breathing techniques, guided meditation, and simple movements to stimulate or calm the brain are all skills that students can learn in order to regulate their mind and body. These exercises can change the energy of the student and the energy in the classroom. Engage in classroom community building. The circle process is another method for strengthening classroom community and enhancing self-efficacy. Using one or two prompts and inviting students to respond provides an opportunity to build connections and normalize their experiences of adjustment. In addition, invite older student leaders who have lived through similar experiences, to share their challenges and successes with newcomer students. Given the changes in immigration policies specifically towards Central American students and families, we are likely to see an increase in anxiety-related and depressive behaviors. This could be manifested by poor attendance, self-harm and suicidal ideation, increased drug use, and dropping out of school. As caring educators, we need to know the daily realities of our students and how we can best address their needs, to support what they most desire – a safe and better life for themselves and their families. RESOURCES Written by Beth Hood, LCSW-C ESOL Intervention Specialist, High Point High School, Beltsville, MD REFERENCES Blaustein, M., & Kinniburgh, K. M. (2010). Treating traumatic stress in children and adolescents: How to foster resilience through attachment, self-regulation, and competency. New York: Guilford Press. Boyes-Watson, C., & Pranis, K. (2015). Circle forward: Building a restorative school community. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press. Close, W., & Solberg, S. (2008). Predicting achievement, distress, and retention among lower-income Latino youth. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72(1), 31-42. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2007.08.007 Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2011). Schools as Developmental Contexts During Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 225-241. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00725.x Maslow A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychol. Rev., 50 370–396. \10.1037/h0054346 National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) home: Part of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from Pariona, A. (2016, September 28). Murder Rate By Country. Retrieved March 21, 2018, from What is SEL? (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from  

Download: Exploring Equity - Bio-Social-Emotional Needs of Immigrant Students

Post Image Collaborative Inquiry and English Learners

This piece, part of our Addressing Critical Issues series, introduces collaborative inquiry and provides examples of how diverse groups of educators have shown the impact of using it to improve the performance of English Learners.

Collaborative Inquiry and English Learners

Collaborative Inquiry can be defined as a method by which members of a professional learning community come together to systematically examine their educational practice. Teams work together to ask questions, develop theories of action, determine action steps, and gather and analyze evidence to assess the impact of their actions. Research indicates that Collaborative Inquiry has a positive impact on student outcomes and teacher efficacy. Reeves (2010) found that inquiry process was one of nine characteristics that had a measurable and significant effect on gains in student achievement in reading and mathematics in both elementary and secondary schools. City et al. (2009) found that by using Collaborative Inquiry, individuals and teams reflect on their assumptions and come up with new and creative solutions to address problems. Huffman & Kalnin (2003) found that Collaborative Inquiry not only positively influences teachers, but also helps them engage in a continuous improvement process allowing them to take more ownership over local data and expand their role in their school’s decision‐ making process. The use of Collaborative Inquiry to address teaching and learning practices for English Learners is gaining momentum. In this Best Practice issue we highlight two of these projects. The first project entitled Video‐mediated teacher collaborative inquiry: Focus on English Language Learners (Baecher et als. 2012) is a project conducted by a teacher educator, with content and ESL teachers at one urban high school in New York City. This teacher‐led collaboration combines two powerful tools in professional learning ‐ teacher collaborative inquiry and video analysis of teaching ‐ as a means to focus across content areas in EL pedagogy. The research design for this project was conceived as a university and school partnership in which embers of both institutions collaboratively construct theory. The three questions guiding the study are: 1) In what ways did examining videos from participating teachers impact their understanding of classroom practice for ELs? 2) To what extent were participants able to move from dependence on the outside facilitator to facilitating their own inquiry? 3) What did participation in the group mean to the teachers? Over a period of four months, seven teachers voluntarily agreed to meet after school for two hours to participate in a total of eight sessions. The sessions were facilitated by a Hunter College facilitator. The content of the sessions was organized in consultation with the teachers. Earlier sessions involved the teachers examining videos of teaching and practicing peer coaching conversations. Later sessions involved teachers bringing in short 3‐5 minute video clips of their own teaching for discussion. At each session teachers use questioning techniques and listening protocols to address pedagogical challenges faced by the teacher’s video footage. As a result of this experience, teachers reported great gains in their understanding of how to provide differentiated instruction for ELs. They also reported interest in sharing what they have learned with other staff in the school. Most importantly, participants indicated that the project had provided them with a great desire to learn and grow. They shared that the Collaborative Inquiry process was an authentic, genuine professional learning experience contrasted with traditional professional development. The second project is entitled Collaborative Inquiry Groups: Empowering teachers to work with English Language Learners. The project was featured in an article by Murry & Herrera (2010) in the Journal of Teaching and Learning. Their paper describes a program designed to prepare in‐ teachers for enhancing their instructional effectiveness with EL students in a general education setting. The project emphasizes the use of Collaborative Inquiry groups in which teachers serve as critical colleagues and challenge one another to implement research based practices. Most importantly, the project provided an opportunity to reflect upon their existing assumptions with regard to the instruction of EL students. The project was designed to address the following questions:1) In what ways do teachers’ perspectives on language differences and appropriate literacy paradigms for ELs change as a result of their experiences with Collaborative Inquiry groups? 2) When teachers are in communities of inquiry are encouraged to use a critical lens to examine such issues, what outcomes are possible? To answer these questions the researchers administered a qualitative open ended survey to examine the perspectives of grade level classroom teachers in five states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. All the respondents had participated in training using the CLASSIC© Model. This model targets communities of inquiry through its emphasis on collaboration among teachers of ELs. A total of 125 teachers responded to the survey. Results indicate that teachers experience a significant transformation on their perspective of ELs. Moving from a perspective of ELs as bi‐illiterate (Escamilla 2006), to realizing that bi‐literacy among ELs is not a deficit but an asset to be nurtured and developed. Evidence from teachers’ responses suggests that colleagues were instrumental in participants’ questioning their assumptions and culture‐bound perspectives. The Collaborative Inquiry experience provided a context to re‐examine issues and negative assumptions and to develop a new perspective. All teachers reported new ways of engaging and teaching ELs that were based on these new perceptions of their students. They used the acquired knowledge to develop strategies that foster the achievement of ELs. REFERENCES
  • Baecher, L.: Rorimer, S.; & Smith, L. (2012). Video‐mediated teacher collaborative inquiry: Focus on English Language Learner. The University of North Carolina Press.
  •  City, E.; Elmore, R.; Fiarman, S. & Teitel, L. (2009). Instructional rounds in education: A network approach to improving teaching and learning. Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, MA.
  •  Escamilla, K. (2006). Semilingualism applied to the literacy behaviors of Spanish‐speaking emerging bilinguals: Bi‐illiteracy or emerging biliteracy? Teachers College Record, 109 (11), 2329‐2353.
  •  Huffman, D. & Kalnin, J. (2003). Collaborative Inquiry to make data‐based decisions in schoold. Teaching & Teacher Education. 19569‐580.
  •  Murry, K. & Herrera, S. (2010). Collaborative Inquiry Groups: Empowering teachers to work with English Language Learners. Journal of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 7, No 1.
  •  Reeves, D. (2010). Transforming professional development into student results. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Ballantyne, K.; Sanderman, A. & Levy, J. (2008). Educating English language learners: Building teacher capacity. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition.
  •  Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational Researcher, 33(8), 3‐15.
  •  De Jong, e. & Harper, C. (2005). Preparing mainstream teachers for English language learners: Is being a good teacher good enough? Teacher Education Quarterly, 32 (2), 101‐124.
  •  Herrrera, S.; Murry, K.; & Perez, D. (2008). CLASSIC: Transforming hearts and minds. In M. Brisk (Ed.).Language, culture and community in teacher education (pp.149‐174). New York: Erlbaum.
  •  Lucas, T. & Villegas, A. M. (2011). Preparing linguistically responsive teachers. In T. Lucas (Ed.). Teacher preparation for linguistically diverse classrooms: A resource for teacher educators (pp 55‐72). New York: Routledge.

Download: Collaborative Inquiry and ELs

Post Image Creating New Futures for Newcomers

Lessons from Five Schools that Serve K-12 Immigrants, Refugees, and Asylees Given the influx of immigrants and refugees over the past several years, newcomer students are found in the classrooms of small towns, suburbs, and big cities across the country and they bring with them a world of culturally diverse experiences and knowledge. Newcomers face myriad challenges to adapt and succeed in their new home and schools. They must learn how to navigate a new culture socially, master a new language, and adjust to a new, and typically different, educational system. Many of these students enter our schools with little or no formal education or fluency in English. Some have fled terrible conditions in their homelands. Others are here without their families. Despite these challenges, all share dreams of being successful students and productive members in our communities, while remaining linked to their cultures and native languages as they become first generation Americans. To help make these dreams come true, we searched for “bright spots,” schools that offer promising and effective strategies for newcomers in K-12 classrooms. In this report, we focus on five very different schools that serve newcomers, each offering promising strategies, proven approaches, and fresh ideas that can benefit all educators, but especially those who work with immigrant and refugee students. We discuss curriculum and instruction, professional learning, school orientation, social-emotional and health support, and ways to partner with newcomer families and communities. We learn how newcomer schools assist students to adjust and thrive. This report was developed through a partnership between MAEC and WestEd. The main author is BethAnn Berliner, Senior Researcher/Project Director at WestEd. Click here for more information and to download the publication.  

Download: Creating New Futures for Newcomers

Post Image Cultural Validity in Assessment

Part of MAEC’s Boosting Success for 21st Century Learners Webinar Series, this webinar shares lessons learned from research and field experiences, illustrated by apt and eye-opening examples of how the failure to consider students' contexts in designing assessments and assessment practices can result in wrong conclusions about student learning. This session was originally held on March 16, 2012. Presenters: 

  • Guillermo Solano Flores, Assoc. Professor, Bilingual Education and ESL, Univ. of Colorado Boulder
  • Elise Trumbull, Independent Consultant, Oakland, California
  • Maria del Rosario Basterra, Deputy Director, The Mid-Atlantic Equity Center
Description: Are assessments fair and valid for all students? How can we determine if assessment results are a true reflection of a student's knowledge? Presenters Basterra, Flores, and Trumbull will discuss findings and illustrate the concept of "culturally valid assessment" from their book, Cultural Validity in Assessment: Addressing Linguistic and Cultural Diversity. This approach takes into consideration students' socio-cultural backgrounds, educational experience, home language, communication style, and how they learn. Learning Outcomes. Learning Outcomes:
  • Understand the concept of cultural validity and its relevance to today's assessment
  • Recognize how cognition, language, and culture have an impact on assessment performance
  • Identify potential assessment sources of misinformation about student learning
  • Learn how to use and implement culturally valid assessments in the classroom.

Post Image Effective Strategies for Educating Immigrant Girls

This piece, part of our Addressing Critical Equity Issues series, discusses several of the hurdles that immigrant girls must overcome as they strive to achieve in our public schools and gives strategies for educators on how to help them.

Effective Strategies for Educating Immigrant Girls

Immigrant girls face a myriad of challenges in public schools. In addition to learning a second language, if they are not proficient in English, immigrant girls need to learn how to function in a society and culture that is different from their home country. Schools need to provide these students with the tools to achieve academic success and to promote positive self-esteem. Immigrant girls often find that family, community, school, and peer expectations are markedly different for them than for girls of Anglo, middle-class culture. Family expectations for many Latinas is to stay relatively close to home during and after high school. This tradition often conflicts with the prevailing trend in middle class culture for successful students to go away for college. Many Latinas also find themselves torn between loyalty to family and community (cooperation and sharing) and a system that focuses on individuality and competition. Latinas often carry additional responsibilities of caring for younger siblings, older relatives, caretaking of their homes for working or absent parents, and serving as translators and advocates for their families. In addition Latinas face other challenges related to the intersection of ethnicity and gender. Many Latinas are influenced by family and societal expectations, often based on stereotypes of Latinas as submissive, underachievers and caretakers. When these stereotypes are internalized, girls may experience lower self esteem which can hinder their motivation and engagement in school and cause them to doubt their chances for academic and career success (National Women’s Law Center & Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 2009). Asian immigrant girls also face a variety of challenges. Research on Southeast and South Asian Immigrant communities suggest that adults view the upholding of traditional gender norms to be central to the maintenance of their ethnic identities. Many Asian immigrant girls experience significant restrictions on their time and independence, as many immigrant parents fear the forces of assimilation (Lee, 1996). Similarly to Latinas, Asian immigrant girls often have household obligations that affect the amount of attention they can devote to their school work or extracurricular activities. This reflects a gender expectation that may hinder girls’ pursuit of education (National Education Association, 2005). In some Asian immigrant communities girls are encouraged to marry while they are teenagers. This practice of early marriage has been shown to have a negative impact on educational persistence. Early research on Hmong refugee students, for example, demonstrated that early marriage and motherhood within the Hmong community led to high drop-out rates among girls (National Education Association, 2005). Schools can facilitate positive learning experiences for immigrant girls by increasing their feelings of attachment through appropriate language proficiency programs; providing access to high standard culturally responsive curriculum; and offering a welcoming environment for students of diverse language and cultural backgrounds. In addition special programs can and should be established to promote academic and social success. Effective immigrant girl-focused programs help them to reclaim both their cultural traditions and develop a cultural and community identity. This goal is accomplished by enabling girls to “walk in multiple worlds.” Building girls’ self confidence and sense of connection helps them to negotiate the tensions that may arise between schools’ and American society’s cultural values and their own (MS. Foundation for Women, 2011). Reaching out to girls’ families is also another way of increasing knowledge and awareness of both family and school cultures and further facilitates dialogue and expanding possibilities of different ways to negotiate multiple perspectives (Ginorio, A. & Huston, M. 2001). Finally, mentoring programs in schools that emphasize positive adult role models from the culture of immigrant girls have also proven to be very successful. PROMISING PRACTICES
  • Mi Carrera Program: This program offers young women in middle and high school a distinctive set of integrated services that is designed to address a student’s self esteem and motivation.
  •  Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL): This is a program that provides opportunities for 10th – 12th grade immigrant and refugee girls to improve their academics, prepare for college, and build strong leadership skills.
  •  The Youth Leadership Program (YLP): The program is specifically tailored to the needs of Asian American high school girls.  Recognizing that Asian American girls have specific cultural and developmental needs, the YLP curriculum focuses on building identity,encouraging self-confidence, and developing leadership skills. The YLP also emphasizes the importance of team building, and in the process, girls in the program serve as positive role models for each other, creating a supportive network of peers.
  • KGA Leadership Development Model: This leadership development programs build the capacity of Southeast Asian high school girls to understand how their physical, emotional, and mental well-being is influenced by political, social, cultural, and economic factors. The program fosters the development of positive self-image, feminist principles and supportive female alliances, as each member graduates from and moves into the next program they receive advanced leadership and community organizing skills so that they are equipped with the necessary tools and skills to identify and impact positive change in their communities.
  •  Hermanitas: A youth mentoring program with high-risk Latina junior high school girls. Hermanitas has provided positive role modeling, education, and personal development to over 105 young women. Hermanitas spans the school year and includes monthly group educational programs, service projects, community networking events, as well as attendance at the annual LA RAZA youth conference.
  • Alfaro, E.; Umaña-Taylor, A.; Gonzalez-Backen, M.; Bamaca, M.; & Zeiders, K. (2009). Latino Adolescents’ Academic Success: The Role of Discrimination, Academic Motivation, and Gender. Journal of Adolescence 32:941-962.
  •  Aragon, A. (2010). Latina Student Achievement: A Phenomenological Study Examining Latina Experiences in an Educational Outreach Progam, Mi Carrera. Enrollment Management Journal, Spring 2010.
  • Blanchard, S. (2010). Teachers’ Perceptions of Immigrant Students and Expectations of Achievement.
  •  Suarez-Orosco, C.; Rhodes, J. & Milburn, M. (2009). Unraveling the Immigrant Paradox: Academic Engagement and Disengagement Among Recently Arrived Immigrant Youth. Youth and Society 41: 151-185.
  • Ginorio, A. & Huston, M. (2001). Si se Puede! Yes, We Can. Latinas in School. American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.
  •  Lee, S. (1996). Unraveling the “model minority” stereotype: Listening to Asian American Youth. New York: Teachers College Press.
  •  MS. Foundation for Women (2011). The New Girl’s Movement: Implications for Youth Programs. HGHW: Collaborative Fund for Healthy Girls, Healthy Women.
  •  National Education Association (2005). A Report on the Status of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Education: Beyond the “Model Minority” Stereotype.
  •  National Women’s Law Center & Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (2009). Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation.

Download: Effective Strategies for Educating Immigrant Girls

Post Image Engaging Families of English Learners

This piece,  part of our Addressing Critical Equity Issues series, discusses some of the barriers that families of English Learners face that make interactions at school challenging and provides promising practices to help address them.  Download Engaging Families of English Learners.

Engaging Families of English Learners

English Language Learners (ELs) are the fastest growing segment of the school‐age population, doubling their numbers from approximately 2 million in 1989‐1990 to more than 5 million in 2004‐2005. Currently, ELs represent 10.5% of the total public school student enrollment (Arias, B. & Morillo‐Campbell, M. 2008). Family involvement is consistently cited as an important correlate of effective schools. There is evidence that family practices concerning children’s education are more important for helping students succeed in school than are family structure, economic status, or characteristics such as race, parent education, family size, and age of child (Goldenberg, 2004; Jeynes, 2002). Unfortunately, not all parents; and/or families have the same level of participation in school‐home collaborations. Families of ELs face barriers that make their interactions with schools particularly challenging. Research studies indicate that the most common barriers include: 1) logistical issues concerning transportation, parents’ labor‐ intensive work schedules, and child care; 2) lack of confidence interacting in a culture different than their own; 3) lack of English language skills; 4) insufficient information on home‐school collaboration and/or partnerships; 5) different perceptions and expectations of their role and the role in school related issues and activities; and 6) in some cases, lack of sensitivity and understanding on the part of school personnel. School based barriers for the engagement of ELs’ families include: a) fear and distrust of different life styles; b) a deficit perspective of ELL families; c) lack of knowledge of the native languages; d) a traditional, unidirectional approach to family involvement; and e) negative school climate (Arias, B. & Morillo‐Campbell, 2008; Tinkler, B. 2002). During the last decade several approaches to effective family engagement of ELs have been developed and implemented successfully. These practices have several common characteristics including: 1) acknowledging parents’ cultural values and viewing them as strengths; 2) providing a school environment that is warm, caring, inviting, and receptive to parents; 3) promoting improved communication between parents and schools by using interpreters and parent liaisons; 4) modifying meetings to accommodate parents work schedule; 5) providing child care and transportation; 6) providing school information in different languages; and 7) training school personnel on how to promote effective culturally responsive communication with parents (Rios, F. 2010; Waterman, R & Harry, B. 2008). PROMISING PRACTICES   PUBLICATIONS
  •  Allen, J. (2007). Creating Welcoming Schools: A Practical Guide to Home‐School Partnerships with Diverse Families. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Arias, B.; Morillo‐Campbel M. (2008). Promoting ELL Parental Involvement: Challenges in Contested Times. Arizona State University. Policy Brief available online at:
  • Civil, M. & Quintos, B. (2009). Latina Mothers’ Perceptions about the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics: Implications for Parental Participation. In Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education, edited by Greer, B., Mukhopadhyay, A., Powell, A., & Nelson‐Barber, S. pp. 321‐343. New York: Routledge.
  • De Gaetano, Y. (2007). The Role of Culture in Engaging Latino Parents’ Involvement in School. Urban Education 42, no.2: 145‐162.
  • Dantas, M.L. & Manyak, P. (2010). Home‐School Connections in a Multicultural Society. Learning from and with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families. Routledge, New York & London.
  • Valdez, G. (1996). Con Respeto: Bridging the Differences between Culturally Diverse Families and Schools: An Ethnographic Portrait. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Zarate, M. (2007). Understanding Parental Involvement in Education: Perceptions, Expectations, and Recommendations. Los Angeles: Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.
  •  Arias, B. & Morillo‐Campbell, M. (2008). Promoting ELL Parental Involvement: Challenges in Contested Times. Educational Policy Research Unit, Arizona State University.
  • Goldenberg, C. (2004). Successful School Change. New York: Teacher College Press.
  • Jeynes, W. (2002). A Meta‐Analysis: The Effects of Parental Involvement on Minority Children’s Academic Achievement.Education and Urban Society 2003; 35; 202
  • Rios, F. (2010). Home‐School‐Community Collaborations in Uncertain Times. In Dantas M.L. & Manyak, P. (Eds.) Home‐School Connections in a Multicultural Society. Learning from and with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families. Routledge, NY.
  • Tinkler, B. (2002, April). A Review of Literature on Hispanic/Latino Involvement in K‐12 Education. Retrieved from
  • Waterman, M. & Harry, B. (2008). Building Collaboration Between Schools and Parents of English Language Learners: Transcending Barriers, Creating Opportunities. National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST),

Download: Engaging Families of English Learners

Post Image English Learners & Disproportionality in Special Education

This piece, part of our Addressing Critical Equity Issues series, discusses the overrepresentation of English Learners (ELs) in special education classes and provides promising practices to address it.

English Learners & Disproportionality in Special Education

The overrepresentation of English Learners (ELs) in special education classes is one of the critical issues affecting this group of students. Research indicates that one of the factors affecting this overrepresentation of ELs is the difficulty educators have distinguishing students who truly have special education needs from students who are learning English as a second language (Artiles & Klingner, 2006). ELs are disadvantaged by the scarcity of appropriate valid and reliable assessment instruments and a lack of personnel trained to conduct culturally valid educational assessments. ELs who need special education services are further negatively impacted by the shortage of special education teachers and/or specialists who are trained to address their language and disability needs simultaneously. The identification of ELs in special education is quite complex because linguistic and immigration factors compound cultural, socioeconomic, and other influences (Klingner, Artiles, & Mendez-Barletta, 2006). For example, determining whether an EL is struggling with reading because of a learning disability or factors associated with language acquisition is particularly challenging (Klingner et al. 2008). Artiles et al. (2005) conducted research regarding special education placement patterns of subpopulations of ELs in urban districts in California and noted significant overrepresentation when they examined data by grade, special education category, and language program (straight English immersion, modified English immersion, bilingual), and level of English proficiency. Findings showed that older ELs were more likely to be overrepresented than younger ELLs. Researchers also found that ELs in straight English immersion programs were more likely to be identified than their peers in modified immersion and bilingual programs. Finally, findings demonstrated that students whose language proficiency tests indicated that they were limited in both Spanish and English were more likely to be placed in special education than ELs with higher scores in their native language (Hoover & Klingner, 2011). Legal provisions provide a framework for providing ELs with disabilities with appropriate services for both their English language acquisition and specific disability. Ortiz & Yates(2001) recommend the following practices aligned with current legislation: • Prevention and early intervention services to avoid unnecessary special education referrals. • Referral processes that distinguish struggling learners from students who are likely to have disabilities. • Assessments conducted by qualified bilingual evaluators who use culturally valid instruments and procedures appropriate for ELs and provide accurate data about native language and English language performance. • Use of interpreters for non-English speaking parents. • Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that are culturally and linguistically relevant and that describe how services for English language acquisition and academic instruction will be provided simultaneously. In addition, Hoover & Klingner (2011) also recommend keeping in mind the following when assessing ELs for potential learning disabilities: • Use alternative ways of assessing students’ strengths to determine the upper limits of their potential. • Conduct observations of student in different settings as part of any evaluation. • Pay greater attention to cultural and affective considerations when evaluating students (e.g., sources of potential conflict, motivation). • Give greater attention to students’ native language and the role of language acquisition when determining whether a student may have a learning disability. • Consider that weak auditory processing skills could indicate language acquisition issues rather than a cognitive processing disorder or learning disability. • Evaluate students in their first language as well as English to determine predictors of reading achievement. • Evaluate each assessment device prior to its use with ELs to make certain that it is appropriate for the population for which it is used. Interpret assessment scores relative to learners’ experiential backgrounds and English language proficiency levels to put results into a meaningful and relevant context. PROMISING PRACTICES  PUBLICATIONS REFERENCE
  • Artiles, A., Rueda, R., Salazar, J.J., Higareda, I. (2005). Within-group diversity in minority disproportionate representation: English Language Learners in urban school districts. Exceptional Children, 71(3), 283-300.
  • Artiles, A. & Klingner, J. (2006). Forging a knowledge base on English language learners with special needs: Theoretical, population, and technical issues. Teachers College Record, 108(11) 2187-2194.
  • Hoover, J., & Klingner, J. (2011). In Basterra, M., Trumbull, E., & Solano-Flores, G. (Eds). Cultural Validity in Assessment: Addressing Linguistic and Cultural Diversity (143-167). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  •  Klingner, J., Artiles, A., & Mendez-Barletta, L. (2006). English language learners who struggle with reading: Language acquisition or learning disabilities? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(2), 108-128. doi:10.1177/00222194060390020101
  •  Klingner, J.K., Hoover, J.J., & Baca, L.M. (2008). Why do English language learners struggle with reading? Distinguishing language acquisition form learning disabilities. Thousand Oaks, CA; Corwin Press.
  •  Ortiz, A.A., & Yates, J.R. (2001). A framework for serving English language learners with disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 14(2), 72-80.

Download: English Learners & Disproportionality in Special Education

Post Image Facilitating Family-School Partnerships: Engaging Immigrant and English Learner Families in their Children’s Learning

The families of immigrant students face multiple challenges in partnering with schools regarding their children’s learning and in improvement efforts. Educators can assist immigrant families to develop the skills necessary to more effectively navigate the American public school system. First and foremost, schools must create a welcoming environment that encourages EL and immigrant families to engage in their children’s learning and build shared decision-making. Schools must also encourage these families to play a broader part in designing and implementing new reform and restructuring strategies. This webinar provides tools and strategies for engaging EL and immigrant families in their children’s learning from state, district, school, community-based, and family-led organization perspectives. Learning Outcomes In this webinar participants:

  • Gain knowledge about the Stages of Immigrant Parent Involvement Framework” which provides educators with an understanding of the diverse needs of families of English Learners
  • Learn about specific engagement strategies that states, districts, and schools can use to effectively create family-school partnerships to improve student learning.
  • Understand the advantages of, and gain skills, for partnering with immigrant, community-based, and family-led organizations that have developed trusting relationships with families from diverse backgrounds to increase engagement in their children’s learning.
  • Diana Autin, Executive Co-Director, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN)
  • Young-Chan Han, Family Involvement Specialist Division of Student, Family, and School Support, Maryland State Department of Education
  • Jennifer Love, Family Engagement Specialist, Office of Interpreting and Translation/Office of Diversity, Prince George’s County Public Schools
Download Facilitating Family-School Partnerships (PDF) View the online recorded presentation  

Post Image Promoting a Safe and Welcoming Environment for Immigrant Students

  Part of CEE's Exploring Equity Issues series, this paper gives a background on the challenges faced by immigrant and EL students in public schools and provides strategies on what schools can do to make their schools more welcoming.  

 Promoting a Safe and Welcoming Environment for Immigrant Students

PART I: THESE CHANGING TIMES Since the Presidential election last November, rhetoric and hateful incidents against immigrant students in schools have increased and continue to occur at alarming rates across the country. Immigrant students have higher levels of fear and anxiety as a result of the administration’s stated goals to deport undocumented immigrants and increased activity by U.S. Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 1,094 hate crimes were reported in just one month after Election Day. In a survey of  almost 25,000 teachers, 40 percent reported hearing derogatory language used against students of color, Muslims, immigrants, and other students based on gender or sexual orientation (SPLC, 2016). Schools across the country are reporting incidents against immigrant students, including: comments about deporting the student or their family, chants to “build the wall,” an assault to remove a Muslim student’s hijab, physical fights with racial epithets, even violent threats. Unfortunately, the peers of immigrant students are not the only ones making schools an unwelcome environment. There have been multiple reports of schools and districts imposing policies that make it difficult for immigrant and refugee students to enroll in school. Despite federal laws that require schools to enroll students regardless of their immigration status, Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1981), many districts still have policies asking about residency and requesting social security numbers. Immigration arrests have increased by 38% since inauguration, with a threefold increase over last year (Gomez, 2017). While ICE has deemed schools as “sensitive zones" in a 2011 policy, recent ICE activity has alarmed schools and students. One young student filmed her father get arrested by ICE agents after he dropped her off at school  Castillo, 2017). Rumors quickly spread about an ICE agent looking for a fourth-grade student at a New York City school who was denied entry by school officials. The agent turned out to be a fraud investigator determining if the student was enrolled for the parent to qualify for an immigrant benefit (Robbins, 2017). These hate incidents along with fear of federal immigration agents showing up at school have led many immigrant students to stop attending school. Immigrant students are particularly vulnerable as they must also manage a language barrier and new culture and new school. They may be reluctant to draw attention to themselves and are embarrassed to talk to their families and teachers about problems. PART II: WHAT CAN WE DO? How do we ensure that our immigrant students feel welcome and safe in our schools? Remember, schools are obligated to provide students with a harassmentfree learning environment. Our civil rights laws protect students from harassment when it is based on certain protected classes, which includes their actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin and could thus include immigrant students. While schools won’t be able to prevent all harassment and hate incidents, they should still work to create a safe and welcoming environment for immigrant students that supports positive behavior and ensures all students know that the school will not tolerate harassment. EVALUATE THE CLIMATE AT YOUR SCHOOL. Observe student group relations at your school. Do students comfortably interact with each other crossing racial, gender, religious, and ethnic lines? Do students self-segregate themselves into groups with little interaction with other groups? Schools can also conduct a school climate survey asking staff, students, and families their opinions on the school environment. Carefully review the results when implementing policies and making changes. Use PTA or other parent group meetings to gather family and teacher input. ADOPT STRONG POLICIES. In addition to creating an anti-bullying, anti-harassment, or anti-discrimination policy, schools should ensure the policy includes definitions for behavior, methods and mechanisms for reporting, and prevention and intervention strategies. Schools and districts can also implement policies affirming commitment to a welcoming environment for all students and to protect immigrant and undocumented students. School policy should state affirmatively that the school does not collect documents related to students’ immigration status. The Los Angeles Unified School District recently passed a resolution specifically forbidding employees from cooperating with federal authorities over immigration inquiries(Blume 2017). TRAIN STAFF. Districts can train teachers and administrators on how to help families when dealing with federal immigration agent inquiries and raids. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) along with United We Dream, the National Immigration Law Center, and First Focus, has developed several toolkits for educators and families on protecting undocumented students (AFT, 2017). Districts can designate a staff person at each school that students can reach out to if they want to report concerns. ENGAGE FAMILIES. Provide trainings and workshops for families so they can identify when a hate incident or harassment occurs and know what they can do about it. Make sure families know about the district’s policies and their parental rights. Reassure families the school will not tolerate that type of behavior and will provide resources for families and students to develop family emergency plans. Include families to create a welcoming environment for all students. Request input from families when developing school policies and translate the policies into  multiple languages. RECRUIT ESL/ESOL TEACHERS. Teachers play a critical role in ensuring a safe environment for immigrant students. Since many immigrant students are also English  learners, ESL/ESOL teachers will often be the first to notice the impact of any incidents and can support students in addressing those incidents. REVIEW CURRICULA. Teachers can review class curricula to make sure it is culturally responsive and promote interaction in the classroom for students to get to know students from other backgrounds. By creating a sense of community within the classroom and the school and encouraging students to look out for each other, students will be more likely to speak up when they see hateful incidents occur. Students should know the school’s policies and teachers should emphasize that harassment or bullying will not be tolerated in the school or in the classroom. Immigrant students should feel safe and welcome at school so they can focus on learning and adjusting to a new school and a new culture. Several organizations have developed helpful tools to support immigrant students and those who work with them. The network of equity assistance centers can assist families, schools, and students once the superintendent or his or her designee invites them into the school district. Their contact information can be found at: These resources provide more detailed advice to ensuring a welcoming environment for all students: American Federation of Teachers Teaching Tolerance Colorin Colorado * Written by Natasha Quiroga, Esq., PREP Director & Senior Counsel, Educational Opportunities Project, for the Center for Education Equity at MAEC REFERENCES Blume, Howard (2017 May 9) LAUSD is making it harder for immigration officials to enter schools. Los Angeles Times, retrieved from Castillo, Andrea (3 Mar 2017) Immigrant arrested by ICE after dropping daughter off at school, sending shockwaves through neighborhood. Los Angeles Times, retrieved at Colorin Colorado, (2011 Sept 17), 8 Tips to Protect ELLs from Bullying in Your Classroom and School, originally published by Language Lizard, retrieved from Educators for Fair Consideration, (Creating a Safe Environment for Immigrant and Refugee Students, Families, and Communities Actions for PreK-12 Schools and Higher Education, retrieved from Gomez, Alan (2017 May 17) Immigration arrests up 38% nationwide under Trump. USA Today,retrieved from Robbins, Liz (2017 May 16) City Hall Stirs ICE Fears First, Gets Facts Later. New York Times, retrieved from Sanchez, Ray (24 Feb 2017) US public schools take steps to protect undocumented students. CNN, retrieved at 200 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since Election Day, The Southern Poverty Law Center (Nov. 11, 2016), (noting the rise of hate incidents in schools nationwide and highlighting recent hate incidents in Minnesota, Illinois, and Pennsylvania schools).    

Download: Exploring Equity - Welcoming Environment for Immigrant Students

Post Image Using the ELD 2.0 Framework to Improve Instructional Programs for ELLs

Part of MAEC’s Boosting Success for 21st Century Learners Webinar Series, presenters in this webinar discuss the Framework for Raising Expectations and Instructional Rigor for English Language Learners and how the School District of Philadelphia has used this framework, dubbed ELD 2.0, to clarify the goals and re-design their instructional program for ELLs. This session was originally held on April 22, 2015. Presenters: 

  • Debra Hopkins, ELL Project Coordinator, Council for Great City Schools
  • Gabriela Uro, Director ELL Policy and Research, Council for Great City Schools
  • Allison W. Still, Deputy Chief, Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs, School District of Philadelphia
  • Erica Darken, Curriculum Development Specialists, Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs, School District of Philadelphia
Description: In this webinar you will learn about the Framework for Raising Expectations and Instructional Rigor for English Language Learners and how the School District of Philadelphia has used this framework, dubbed ELD 2.0, to clarify the goals and re-design their instructional program for ELLs. Learning Outcomes:
  • Understand the theory of action of the Framework that calls for higher expectations for ELLs;
  • Understand the components of the Framework and its application to district planning for ELLs;
  • and Understand the criteria for selecting instructional materials for ELLs.

Join Our Mailing List

Receive monthly updates on news and events. Learn about best practices. Be the first to hear about our next free webinar!