Report: Evaluation of Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) Professional Development


STUDENTS: English Language Learners


Bos, J.M., Sanchez, R.C., Tseng, F., Rayyes, N., Ortiz, L., and Sinicrope, C.




U.S. Department of Education


English language proficiency is critical to academic achievement in the United States. For
several decades, educators and policymakers have explored strategies to ensure that English
language learner students have access to rigorous academic content as much as non–English
language learner students. Educating English language learner students is a challenge that has
become a civil rights issue and a topic of federal legislation. In 1968, Congress passed the
Bilingual Education Act, followed by the Equal Education Opportunity Act of 1974, which
requires school districts to remove language barriers to instructional programming. More
recently, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandated that all students, including English
language learner students, demonstrate proficiency in English language arts and mathematics by
2014 (Abedi and Dietel 2004). This focus on academic success for all student subgroups is a
priority in the Obama administration’s A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (U.S. Department of Education 2010).
The demographics of students in the United States have shifted significantly over the last few
decades. The population has become increasingly diverse over the last 40 years in terms of race,
ethnicity and linguistic background. According to U.S. Census figures, the proportion of children
of immigrants among the school-age population grew from 6 percent in 1970 to 19 percent in
2000 (Capps et al. 2005). And the nation’s overall K–12 school population grew less than
3 percent from 1995 to 2005, but the population of English language learner students increased
56 percent during that period (Batalova, Fix, and Murray 2007). It is important to note that the
English language learner population includes students who are immigrants as well as U.S. born
citizens who speak a language other than English at home.
The English language learner student population is growing, but its academic success is not
(Working Group on ELL Policy 2009, 2010). Approximately half of English language learner
students nationwide leave high school without a diploma (Hopstock and Stephenson 2003),
compared with 11 percent for students overall (National Center for Education Statistics 2002).
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires all students to master the same curriculum,
regardless of their baseline English language proficiency; however, the diverse levels of
academic preparation students bring to the classroom create complex pedagogical challenges for
secondary teachers (August and Hakuta 1997; Parsad, Lewis, and Farris 2001; Ruiz-de-Velasco
and Fix 2000; Walqui and van Lier 2010).
Overview of Quality Teaching for English Learners
Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL), developed by WestEd, is an approach to
improving the teaching of English language learner students at the secondary level. It aligns with
the broader democratic goals of equal access and equal opportunity for all students (Walqui and
van Lier 2010). QTEL targets the teachers of English language learner students classified as
limited English proficient and those reclassified as fluent English proficient and placed in
mainstream classrooms. By enhancing the ability of teachers to work with English language
learner students, the intervention also seeks to increase the quality of instruction for all other
students in the mainstream classroom QTEL is a nonscripted intervention tailored to the needs
of particular schools, teachers, and students. Five fundamental principles guide all QTEL activities (Walqui and van Lier 2010):
1. Sustain academic rigor.
2. Hold high expectations.
3. Engage in quality interactions.
4. Sustain a language focus.
5. Develop a quality curriculum.
These principles permeate the three core components of QTEL: summer institutes, individualized
teacher coaching, and collaborative lesson design meetings.
The summer institutes consist of seven days of professional development group sessions to
provide a foundation for using new tools and processes for the academic and linguistic
development of adolescent English language learner students. To promote continuity across
school years, three days are offered at the end of a school year (June/July) and four days are
offered before the start of the next (August/September).
Four to six cycles of individualized coaching are offered to teachers participating in QTEL each
year. Coaches help teachers develop academically and linguistically rigorous lessons that
implement QTEL principles, tools, and processes. These coaching cycles consist of a one-on-one
lesson design meeting, an observation of the lesson’s implementation, and a debriefing.
The collaborative lesson design meetings, a series of monthly planning sessions, are held at the
school sites and facilitated by QTEL staff to provide support for QTEL implementation.


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