Purpose: In recent years, there has been growing awareness among educators and researchers about long-term English learners (LTELs). Unfortunately, there is limited information on how leaders are supporting their LTELs, particularly at the high school level, or on these students’ key characteristics in Minnesota. The purpose of this study was to explore how district and school leaders identify and support LTELs in Minnesota high schools, as well as to explore key characteristics of the state’s LTELs. Research Methods: This qualitative study examined data from 17 interviews with school and district leaders across eight school districts in Minnesota, as well as de-identified student demographic information and academic performance data from the Minnesota Department of Education. Findings: This study identified four key findings: (a) No leaders identified a formal districtwide definition for LTELs, with some leaders citing little to no familiarity with the term “LTEL”; (b) LTELs represent nearly 40 percent of Minnesota’s high school EL population. The majority of LTELs in study districts reached Levels 3 and 4 on the ACCESS assessment, with listening as their strongest area and speaking as their weakest domain; (c) Leaders indicated that a primary barrier for LTELs is that they are not receiving the instruction they need in general education classrooms; (d) Leaders primarily reported meeting their LTELs’ needs through co-taught instruction, school-district collaborations, and strong high school EL staff. Conclusions and Implications: This study concludes that a first step in addressing LTELs’ needs would be for district leaders to establish and communicate a definition for LTELs so that decisions about serving those students can be made with consistency. In addition, district and school leaders need to seek ways to collaborate to address diverse EL needs at the secondary level, including reviewing student schedules and school programming, hiring EL staff, and reviewing EL instructional models. Leadership preparation programs can also assist in improving LTELs’ education by including content about the diversity of the EL student population, the process of EL language acquisition, language assessments, and how to support a schoolwide focus on academic language.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation December 2020. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Kyla Wahlstrom. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 262 pages.
School and District Leadership for Long-Term English Learners: An Interview Study.
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