Ensuring Equity for English Language Learners

Research-based intervention strategies for ELL students
By: | Issue: May, 2018 | Web Seminar Digest
May 1, 2018

The population of ELL students continues to grow, and achievement gaps between ELL students and other student populations persist in many districts. There are a variety of best practices administrators can employ to address these achievement gaps and meet the needs of ELL students.

This web seminar discussed ways of ensuring equity for ELL students. Educational consultants with more than 40 years of combined teaching experience shared intensive, research-based intervention strategies and highlighted ways to use computer-adaptive technology to deliver formative data and feedback for instructional decision making. The presenters also introduced ways to save teachers time, deliver lessons with equity, identify areas for improvement and work with families.


Julie Kalinowski

Strategic Professional Development Specialist


Sabrina Jones

Strategic Professional Development Supervisor


Julie Kalinowski: We know that there exists a very clear and persistent achievement gap among students labeled as ESL or ELL. Out of all the at-risk subgroups, these students are the least likely to graduate from high school.

Sabrina Jones: At Istation we understand that the path to English proficiency has to be successful. The needs of our English language learners range from acquiring basic interpersonal communication skills to acquiring academic literacy skills for success in all content. Our responsibility to ELL learners is not just to teach them the content, but also to get them to speak, read and write the language.

Julie Kalinowski: We found the best available evidence and expertise in effective literacy in ELL instruction from the Institute of Education Sciences—looking at what their practical recommendations were about different aspects of instruction that were geared toward improving learning for ELL students.

There are five pieces to look at. The first piece is screening. We need to know which students require additional support and what types of interventions are needed. We need truly effective data for educators to be able to determine areas of strength for students, but also areas of need in order to help drive instruction.

At Istation we provide our assessment, called ISIP, or Istation Indicators of Progress. We want to make sure teachers have access to data that’s going to help drive, inform and adjust instruction.

The second piece is small-group instruction. Research tells us that this helps provide lasting effects in reading performance, especially for ELL students. This helps differentiate for students, and it helps us deliver content in chunks so they can digest and build their knowledge over time.

Istation supports these different students at different levels of literacy development by using what we call the gradual release model. Once students have taken the assessment and fall into instruction, we have an online piece.

But also just as important is the teacher providing the intensive small-group instruction and providing multiple opportunities for students to reinforce key concepts and vocabulary.

Sabrina Jones: The third piece is explicit vocabulary. Students need to be able to comprehend about 90 to 95 percent of the words in a piece of text to internalize it. It’s essential to all instruction, but it’s just crucial to our ELLs.

Within Istation, students are exposed to a variety of words both online and offline. We provide students with multiple interactions with words through a multitude of interfaces, and we equip the educator with activities and vocabulary words.

The fourth piece is integrating academic English into the classroom so students fully comprehend all content. Istation weaves core and academic vocabulary throughout the program and represents words in a variety of ways that are very engaging. We offer an error-free learning environment, meaning that if they don’t understand a word then we give them immediate correct feedback and then offer to re-teach those same words and/or comprehension activities to ensure success.

The fifth piece is assisted learning opportunities, and that’s just big language for peer tutoring. We can group the students together with their peers so that they can help one another learn. Students today are very adept with technology—they’re used to clicking and finding activities and things to do online that interest them. We offer many opportunities for that. We also have several tools that the teacher can use to engage the students for these assisted learning opportunities.

Julie Kalinowski: There are several scaffolding strategies that are designed for academic instruction for English that can be embedded within our daily educational lives:

metacognitive development: getting students to think about their thinking

bridging: helping students to decode information, so they can establish a link between what they know already and the material they’re being presented with

schema-building: helping students see the relationship between various concepts

contextualization: familiarizing students with unknown concepts through direct experience

text representation: allowing students to extend their current learning of something and apply it in a new and different way

modeling: giving students a good example to follow

Sabrina Jones: Another option we have is Istation Home. Often, some of the parents may not be fluent in English, so this provides an opportunity for the student to continue their learning at home. Parents also have access to their student’s data, as well as a lot of resources to work with their student at home, which can be easily monitored from school by the educator. It’s a great way to continue learning outside of the classroom.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: www.districtadministration.com/ws022218