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Supporting ELs in GenEd Strategy Guide - Archived

Introduction of Strategy

In this guide, we define Support for English Learners in General Education as structures, systems and practices that support English Learners in accessing and achieving grade level proficiency in general education classes.

This strategy is intended to support English Learners in general education settings and is not intended to replace requirements for English Language Development under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). These requirements can be found on CDE’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education website.

Research has shown that the following components support English Learners in the general education school environment. It is important to note that while there is evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of each component (see research following each component), these components are most effective when implemented together. The following components are derived from various articles and research that articulate what support for English Learners should include:

  1. Articulate Vision and Need
  2. Leverage Structures and Systems to Focus on English Learners
  3. Ensure High Quality Instructional Program(s)
  4. Support an Inclusive and Culturally Responsive School Environment

Evidence Base

ESSA defines levels of research based on the quality of the study (Levels 1-4).CDE requires that schools and districts identify the research base for strategies that they select for their Unified Improvement Plans, and for applications for school improvement funds in the EASI application.

Deussen, T., Autio, E., Miller, B., Lockwood, A. T., & Stewart, V. (2008). What teachers should know about instruction for English language learners: A report to Washington State. Evaluation Program, Northwest Regional Education

Laboratory, Portland OR.

Goldenberg, C. (2013). Unlocking the Research on English Learners: What We Know--and Don't Yet Know--about Effective Instruction. American Educator, 37(2), 4.

Hakuta, K., & Olsen, L. (2018). California English learner roadmap: Strengthening comprehensive educational policies, programs, and practices for English learners. CA EL Roadmap.

Li, J. (2012). Principles of Effective English Language Learner Pedagogy. Research in Review 2012-3. College Board.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition. (2017). English Learner Tool Kit (2nd Rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author

Walqui, A., & Heritage, M. (2018). Meaningful Classroom Talk: Supporting English Learners' Oral Language Development. American Educator, 42(3), 18.


Possible Root Causes include inadequate, inconsistent or ineffective...

  • Adult culture and beliefs related to cultural responsiveness and/or English language development
  • Curriculum alignment and/or implementation
  • Differentiation
  • ELD instruction
  • Instructional framework and/or practices
  • Professional development and coaching
  • Program implementation
  • Understanding student needs

Is this strategy a good fit for your district/school?

  • Does this major improvement strategy focus on a priority performance challenge and associated root cause(s)?
  • Are the expected outcomes of this major improvement strategy highly valued?
  • Do key leaders support this major improvement strategy? Do key leaders have the capacity to lead the strategy ongoing?
  • What are the skills and competencies needed to implement this major improvement strategy with fidelity?What support/professional development do staff members need to implement this strategy effectively?
  • Are the time, effort and resources needed for implementation feasible for the staff involved?

Considerations for Strategy Implementation

  • What is the history of the school’s support for English Learners in general education settings? Has staff been involved in this work previously? How might this history impact the reception or implementation of this strategy?
  • What school-wide practices, systems, or structures need to be adjusted to support English Learners in general education settings?
  • What school culture and climate factors need to be taken into consideration when implementing support for English Learners in general education settings?
  • What development will staff need to build awareness and understanding of the school and community demographics, including what languages are spoken, what countries families are from, and cultural differences due to family histories?

Implementation Guide

Action Steps


Alignment to School Mission and Vision

School leaders should articulate how support for English Learners connects to the school’s vision and mission.

Clear Instructional Vision

School leaders should articulate a clear vision for high-quality instruction thatsupports English Learners in general education settings. Consider a vision that includes access, growth towards English proficiency, and academic engagement and achievement.

Data Dig

Schools should gather data and search for patterns and trends that would pinpoint some areas of success and areas of need. Consider using CDE’s Data Dig on English Learners tool to further analyze performance data of English Learner students.

Clear Goals

School leaders should establish clear goals and commitments to English learners. School leaders should maintain a systemic focus on continuous improvement and progress toward these goals.

Teachers Aware of and Use Data

Teachers and staff should identify students that are English Learners in their classes and/or on their caseloads. Teachers and staff should be aware of various groups of English Learner students, including those that have opted out of EL services, ELs with disabilities, ELs that have exited the EL program and long-term ELs, as well as each student’s language development level. Teachers should use this data when planning for instruction.

For more information on using data to guide instruction, refer to the Data-Driven Instruction Strategy Guide.

Monitor all ELs Ensure that teachers have tools to monitor all students who are English Learners in their classes, including those that have opted out of EL services, ELs with disabilities, ELs that have exited the EL program and long-term ELs. EL students should be monitored for progress in achieving English Language Proficiency and acquiring content knowledge in order to target instruction and provide additional support as needed.

Action Steps


Professional Learning

Ensure that teachers have the most current understanding of how to support English Learners in general education classrooms. Consider referring to the USDE’s Office of English Language Acquisition tools to develop and present appropriate professional learning opportunities specific to general education teachers of English Learners.

Professional Learning topics should include:

Collaboration & Coaching

Provide time for collaboration and coaching for teachers to further develop skills in teaching students who are English Learners. Refer to the Coaching Strategy Guide for further information on supporting teachers through coaching.

Provide resources Ensure that staff have adequate resources to support the conditions required to meet English Learners’ needs as they develop English language and content skills.
Staffing School leaders should recruit educators skilled in addressing the needs of English learners, including bilingual teachers.

Action Steps


Standards-Based Instruction

Students who are English learners receive instruction based on grade level standards. Teachers should have continuous collaborative opportunities to study and understand content standards, design lessons based on the standards including differentiation and scaffolding for EL students, and analyze student work produced during lessons. Standards-Based Instruction, while critical for all learners, is especially critical to the success of EL students.

High Expectations

Teaching and learning should emphasize engagement, interaction, discourse, inquiry, and critical thinking with the same high expectations for English learners as for all students in each of the content areas. High Expectations, while important for all learners, are a crucial element in effectively supporting EL students.

Integration of Domains

Students who are English Learners need to have multiple opportunities to practice subject-specific and substantive oral language with more fluent English speakers. Teachers should integrate listening, reading and writing activities into oral development activities.

Scaffolding and/or Differentiation

In classes with large numbers of English learners, teachers should provide full class scaffolding structures that increase comprehension and participation, as well as develop student autonomy and mastery. Explicit scaffolding enables meaningful participation by English learners at different levels of English language proficiency. Teachers should consider the use of sheltered instruction as a scaffold for English Learners. Instructional supports could include graphic organizers, explicit and repeated vocabulary instruction, and the use of home language to teach vocabulary and/or concepts.

Teachers should incorporate skills learned in professional development around scaffolding for students in all contents as well as specific strategies identified as effective in different content areas. Refer to the following resources for evidence-based strategies:

Teachers should provide differentiated instruction to meet individual student needs. Differentiation is especially important to meet the needs of English learners with disabilities.

Action Steps


Inclusive Culture

Ensure that the school has an affirming culture where all students are included and safe. Promote school-wide understanding that students who are English Learners bring assets that are valued and built upon in culturally responsive curriculum and instruction. Promote programs that support, wherever possible, the development of proficiency in multiple languages.
Refer to the Culturally Responsive Instruction Strategy Guide for more information on supporting culturally responsive instructional practices. Consider the use ofCDE’s Equity Toolkit to create and maintain an inclusive school environment.

Access to Extra- and Co-Curriculars

Ensure that students who are English Learners have access to the full curriculum, including co-curricular classes such as electives and specials, as well as extra-curricular activities. English Learners should have access to supports and services when participating in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Communication with Families

Schools value and build strong family and school partnerships. For more information on communicating and partnering with families, refer to the Family-School-Community Partnerships Strategy Guide.