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English Language Learners in Middle and High School

Featuring Kathleen Leos, Deborah Santiago, and Susan Lafond in a discussion on English Language Learners (ELLs). Our expert panel discusses demographic trends, instructional strategies, school-family partnerships, and college readiness.

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Program description

How can schools help close the achievement gap for English language learners (ELLs) and what can we do to increase college readiness for these students? Our panel of experts discusses ways that schools can become more and improve instruction for ELL students. Learn about techniques for building trust and partnerships with families; ways to adapt classroom instruction to improve comprehension, and strategies to increase college readiness.



Kathleen Leos is the President and CEO of The Global Institute for Language and Literacy Development (GILD), which advises state and district departments of education and higher education institutions on transforming education into high-quality, comprehensive systems that ensure English Language Learners (ELLs) achieve academic success. Previously, Ms. Leos served as the Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director to the US Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), where she was principal advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education on all matters related to ELL students.

Deborah Santiago, is the co-founder and Vice President for Policy and Research at Excelencia in Education where her current research focuses on state and federal policy, accountability, program evaluation, and student success in higher education. Previously, Deborah worked with federal agencies to evaluate how their programs served Latinos and produced multiple reports on the status of Latinos in education as the Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

Susan Lafond creates and leads professional development programs for the new York State United Teachers Union and serves on the American Federation of Teachers’ English Language Learning advisory cadre. She was a classroom teacher for 20 years, including ten years as an ELL instructor.

Discussion questions

  1. What are the challenges your school faces in making ELLs students and families feel welcome? What are some ways your school has tried to overcome these challenges?
  2. What can teachers in content classes do to teach content and language simultaneously? What are some possible collaboration models for content and ESL teachers?
  3. Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFEs) present unique challenges as compared to students that immigrate to the US with a strong educational background. What can schools and teachers at your school do to work with this subgroup of ELLs?
  4. Describe the impediments that stand in the way of an ELL attending college? How could your school increase the likelihood of ELLs going to college and completing a post-secondary degree?
  5. What types of professional development activities do you think would be helpful to teachers who want to learn more about effective academic English instruction?
  6. If states adopt common standards and assessments, how do you think these standards should be modified to consider the challenges and needs of ELLs?