A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

School Reform and Student Diversity - September 1995

1. Lessons Learned from Site Selection

Site selection involved the nomination and filtering process diagrammed in Figure I-1.1.1 The schools chosen for intensive field examination were selected after an extensive nationwide search. They are not the only schools with exemplary programs in the country, though they are among a small number of schools that provide outstanding education for LEP students at the grade levels and in the curriculum areas pertinent to this study. To locate candidate schools, nominations were solicited from knowledgeable people at the national, state, and local levels. They were asked to identify exemplary language arts programs in grades 4 through 6 and exemplary science and math programs in grades 6 through 8 for LEP students. One-hundred and fifty-six schools were initially nominated, from the 20 states with the largest populations of LEP students. It was much more difficult to locate exemplary math or science programs than language arts programs. Of the 156 nominated sites, approximately two-thirds were language arts sites and the remaining were math and/or science sites.

Figure I-1.1
The Sample Design

                        Pool of 156 Nominated Sites                                    |                                   \ /                   Telephone Screening of 75 Candidate Sites                                    |                                   \ /                       25 Potential Fieldwork Sites                                    |                                   \ /                            15 Fieldwork Sites                                    |                                   \ /                            8 Case Study Sites  

Seventy-five of the most promising nominated sites were then screened using extensive telephone inteviews to identify schools that exhibited excellence with regard to three major criteria: 1) high quality language arts, mathematics, or science programs for LEP students; 2) significant school restructuring--; i.e., with respect to governance, organization of teaching, uses of time; and 3) implementation of a well-designed English language acquisition program. Each school was assessed in terms of these criteria using six indicators of excellence:

The results of the phone interviews were used to reduce the number of sites that had potential for in-depth study to 25. From that pool, demographic, geographic, and programmatic variables were used to select 15 schools for a one-day preliminary field visit to determine which programs would become the final case study sites. One-day visits by one or two fieldworkers to each of the 15 sites were designed to provide the research team with information that would allow the selection of eight case study sites that best met study criteria. During the preliminary visits, fieldwork staff informally observed classrooms and interviewed people in responsible administrative positions at the district and site level as well as resource and classroom teachers. The issues briefly explored in the preliminary visits included questions about program design (e.g., the purpose of the reform, the program's conceptual framework, curriculum, instructional strategies, materials, grouping strategies, and the role of external partners in the design of the program), implementation (e.g., the forces and factors that influenced reform, program organization, staffing, and school climate), and program impact (e.g., evidence of improvements in student learning and previous program evaluations).

Based on these preliminary visits, eight schools were selected for more intensive field work. Data on student outcomes that are comparable across the sites were not available, in large part because LEP students are often not given the standardized tests (in English) that districts or states require of most students.2 Therefore, quantitative data are not available to demonstrate that the eight case study sites present evidence of significantly higher student achievement scores. Nevertheless, the nomination, screening, and field visits all led to the conclusion that these schools were highly innovative and followed practices that are considered by researchers to provide outstanding learning opportunities for LEP--and all--students. 3

This selection process taught us about implementation problems and challenges that schools must overcome to serve LEP students effectively. Many schools nominated as exemplary did not meet the criteria for inclusion. This was particularly true for sites in math and science. As noted above, it was much easier to locate schools that met the criteria for inclusion as exemplary sites at the elementary level involving language arts than it was to find outstanding math or science programs involving LEP students at the middle grades. In several cases, for example, schools were nominated that indeed had outstanding math or science programs, but the programs did not include LEP students; the schools’ LEP students simply did not receive the challenging math or science curriculum that others received. In several other cases, schools with good reputations failed to continue their exemplary efforts when they lost key personnel, most often the principal or a key bilingual resource teacher. Finally, a number of nominated schools only had one outstanding class for LEP students led by an outstanding and trained teacher, but this class was separated and isolated from the rest of the school’s activities. For example, in one state, Eisenhower staff development funding was used for training individual teachers. In some schools using these funds, the individual teacher became highly proficient, but the teacher’s training was not part of a comprehensive change strategy involving all teachers at the same school who taught LEP students. Therefore, the training did not affect the whole school’s approach to the education of LEP students.

In sum, the evidence from the study’s nomination and site selection process suggests that many schools have not effectively met the challenge of educating LEP students. Even among those schools nominated as having good programs for LEP students, many had not developed a comprehensive approach to the complex set of language acquisition and curricular/instructional needs of LEP students. Few schools included their program for LEP students in school-wide reform efforts which ensure fundamental prerequisites for success--expecting LEP students to learn challenging curriculum; employing experienced teachers appropriately trained in language development; using resources efficiently, such as time and the assistance of external partners, to expand and intensify their curricular/instructional efforts; and actively engaging parent and community members. This conclusion about the sites not included as exemplary puts special emphasis on discovering those policies, practices, and strategies that distinguished the exemplary sites.

The remainder of this section describes and draws conclusions from the exemplary approaches. Chapter 2 presents overall lessons that provide a context for the more specific descriptive findings detailed in subsequent chapters. Lessons 1 and 2 set the stage by offering high level conclusions. Lessons 3 through 9 present conclusions whose specific findings are respectively detailed in chapters 3 through 9 of this section. Chapters 3 through 5 address school-level findings: approaches to language development, including the programming of LEP students through transition (chapter 3); the characteristics of high quality learning environments for LEP students, including curricular and instructional approaches in language arts at the elementary level and science and mathematics at middle school level (chapter 4); and the culture and schoolwide organizing and restructuring that support high quality learning environments for LEP students (chapter 5). Chapters 6 through 9 cover sources of support from outside the school, including the influence of external partners (chapter 6), districts (chapter 7), and state (chapter 8) and federal policies (chapter 9).

1 All citations for Section I are located at the end of each chapter.

2 The methodology for selecting the schools is reported in detail in Volume III: Technical Appendix, Research Design and Methodology. P. Berman et al., Meeting the Challenge of Language Diversity: An Evaluation of Programs for Pupils with Limited Proficiency in English, 5 vols. (Berkeley, CA: BW Associates, February 1992).

3 On the second visits to the final eight sites, research teams of two to four people interviewed teachers, support staff, and administrators at both the school and district level. Researchers also held focus group sessions with students making the transition to English classes and with their parents, and observed classes and staff meetings. The research team included people fluent in Spanish or Haitian Creole who could observe classes and conduct focus groups in these native languages where appropriate. Interpreters were used occasionally for Asian languages to clarify some aspects of the school or classroom situation. Researchers also collected available demographic, financial, and evaluative information. Finally, the research teams interviewed external partners and district and state officials familiar with the school and with state and district policies.


[Cross Site Analysis] [Table of Contents] [2. Overall Lessons from the Exemplary Sites]