PLE 3: Module 3

PLE 3: Organizing for ELL Success

Printable Version: PLE #3 Teaching Notes

Printable Version: PLE #3 Rubric              

Element Description/Instructions Instructor Notes
  • Understand how to maximize organizational structures and resources to support ELL learning
  • Identify ways in which organizational structures and resources can be aligned to support ELL learning
  • Recognize the structures and resources in schools and districts that can be reinforced and focused on ELLs

This module is called “Organizing for ELL Success” because it is the principal’s role to use all the structures and resources in the school to ensure the success of ELL students.

It is important to note that in this PLE we define structures and resources as professional development, personnel, teacher evaluation, and instructional programs.

While candidates are encouraged to integrate issues of diversity into their leadership, the focus is often on “peripheral” multicultural celebrations, or curricular “add-ons” (i.e fiction by diverse authors in language arts or “months” in social studies). These efforts, well-intentioned as they may be, fail to (1) challenge existing mindsets about children of color, (2) add substantively to teacher knowledge, or (3) develop new and equitable structures. In addition, these isolated attempts at “multiculturalism” are perceived as tokenism and only serve to further jeopardize student success. 

This is especially true of ELLs who already have limited access due to language barriers and are often isolated in separate programs and classes. Without careful thought about how to maximize school structures and resources for student success, many obstacles will remain.

In order to see how much students know about existing structures and resources that affect ELLs, we provide a simple organizational reflection/assessment that highlights some basic structures that must be modified to support ELL success.

The focus of this activity is to emphasize the structures that reflect the organization’s level of preparedness to meet the needs of ELLs.

This is a tool for individual and organizational reflection. The questions address the underlying theory of ELL education regarding language acquisition, instructional programs, and policy issues.

The assessment can be given “whole class” (rather than individually) to spark a discussion about what candidates do/do not know about their own school structures and how these interact to foster or undermine ELL education.

If you are able to integrate this more into your class, the areas highlighted in the assessment can be used as “study questions” in which students break into small groups and discuss these issues in their school/district. Response can be presented in class or through an on-line discussion board.

Do not be surprised if students do not know the answers to many of these questions. Schools rarely respond to ELL needs in systematic and systemic ways, mostly focusing on curriculum or instruction. If this is the case, then this activity should help candidates begin to think more holistically about ELLs and school improvement.

Video can be assigned independently or in-class as part of a guided discussion.

If viewed independently, discussion/reflection questions are embedded.

If viewed in-class, clip can be paused for discussion. Discussion can be whole class or in small groups.

Video Length ~ 7:26

These clips address the how school structures and resources were developed and aligned to more effectively meet ELL learning needs.  The video also highlights the multi-strategy approach employed by the school and the district. The principal did not rely on the one, “right” strategy but engaged with the district and teachers to   develop several strategies that were tightly aligned.

  • The principal introduces,
    Professional development  (both in terms of the theoretical knowledge of Second Language Acquisition and specific strategies for ELLs)
  • Teacher observations (understanding the classroom context and needs of ELL students)
  • Building Staff Knowledge (role of ESL teachers in instructional planning)
  • District support (aligning programs district wide and developing responsive programs)
  • Personnel assignments (effective placement of ESL professionals)
Guided Discussion

There are discussion questions embedded in the video after every segment.  For example,

  • How does this build organizational capacity?
  • What resources were identified in the process?
  • What other school structures support organizational learning?

If candidates are completing this PLE independently, then students can write short responses to the discussion/reflection questions. These can then be submitted for professor review and/or an on-line forum or brought to class for group discussion.

If students are watching the video in class, the video can be stopped after every segment and questions can be used to foster class discussion.

These discussion questions can also be modified to reflect the local context, including constraints and needs.

Questions can also focus on the larger issue of leading school reform. Many of the structures discussed here affect teaching/classrooms and require reallocation of resources (i.e. time, personnel). These are organizational changes, which highlights both a systemic approach AND how making curricular changes alone will not foster school improvement.

Fry, R. (2008). “The Role of Schools in the English Language Learner Achievement Gap.” Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center.

Coady, M., Hamann, E.T., Harrington, M., Pacheco, M., Pho, S. & Yedlin, J. (2003). “Claiming Opportunities: A Handbook for Improving Education for English Language Learners Through Comprehensive School Reform”

These readings highlight the role of school structures in ELL achievement. Rather than “blaming” ELL students for, assumed low achievement, these articles force students to address issues in schools and leadership.

Claiming Opportunities is a free on-line text. The whole book is relevant to this module. For this PLE, we recommend Chapters 4 and 5.
Supporting Materials

Gándara, P., Rumberger, R., Maxwell-Jolly, J. and Callahan, R., (2003, October 7). English Learners in California Schools: Unequal resources, unequal outcomes. Education Policy
Analysis Archives, 11(36). Retrieved [2012] from

Ylimaki, R. M., Jacobson, S. L. & Drysdaleb, L. (2007). Making a difference in challenging, high-poverty schools: Successful principals in the USA, England, and Australia. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 18(4), pp. 361 – 381.

National Clearinghouse of English Language Acquisition

Office of English Language Acquisition

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition

These materials can be used in conjunction with or instead of the articles suggested.

There are numerous websites but these offer both research and policy information on ELL students and second language acquisition.

Reflective Journaling

Reflective journals are an important part of individual leadership development. It allows students to capture their thinking and underlying assumptions. Periodically, students can analyze their journal and see how their thinking evolves over time, both in terms of sophistication and skill development.

Candidates journal about of their experiences in changing contexts and their feeling about it, as well as strategies that were used to “manage the change.”

One way to maximize the journaling experience is to give students time in class to share what they are learning about themselves/their leadership. This serves to highlight the value of the journal and also give you insight into where their learning needs are.

These journals can also be done on-line via individual discussion boards, blogs, etc.
Assessments Level One

Level One: Candidates reply to the discussion questions in written form based on principal’s responses.

Level Two: Candidates write a brief case study of the school based on principal’s responses

Level Three: Candidates respond to guiding questions based on their own context

These assessments reflect the different levels of integration into existing course. Each “level” becomes increasing more complex and will require more time on the part of students and professor.

The extended activity described below requires extensive work outside of class and reinforces data collection and analysis skills.
Extended Activity
  • Option A: Candidates write an in-depth case study of Global Middle School, including background information, readings, and addressing all the leadership areas, based on principal’s responses.
  • Option B: Candidates write an in-depth case study, addressing all the leadership areas, based on their own context. This requires that candidates interview their/a principal on some/all the leadership areas and write an in-depth case study based on the data.


PLE  #3  ELL Organizing for ELL Success – Performance Assessment Rubric

Standard 2: A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to ELL student learning and staff professional growth.

  • Structures and resources aligned to ELL
  • Develop the instructional capacity including professional development, personnel, teacher evaluations

Standard 4: An education leader promotes the success of every student by collaborating with faculty and community members, responding to diverse ELL community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.

  • Leveraging external and internal support structures to support ELLs

Standard 6: An educational leader promotes the success of every ELL student by understanding, responding to and influencing the political, social, economic, legal and cultural context.

  • Act to influence local, district, state, and national decisions affecting ELL student learning
Candidate Goals
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
What are the structures and resources in schools and districts that can reinforce and focus on ELLs?
Candidate has minimal understanding of school structural elements that affect ELL learning.
Candidate identifies traditional programs for ELLs including ESL and dual language programs.
Candidate articulates an understanding of key ELL program features that best support ELL learning in multiple settings.
Candidate identifies curriculum, human resource, political and cultural resources and structures that affect ELLs.
Candidate identifies through ELL research literature all  structural elements in schools that affect ELL learning.
What are the ways in which organizational structures and resources can be aligned to support ELL learning?
Candidate is able to articulate the construct of  curriculum alignment.
Candidate articulates the organizational barriers to ELL learning in traditional school settings.
Candidate uses four frame analysis to describe a school or district challenge for ELLs.
Candidate uses root cause analysis framework to assess ELL lack of success in various settings.
Candidate uses curriculum equity audit framework to determine the level of alignment of  the written, taught and tested curriculum for ELLs.
How are organizational structures  maximized to support ELL learning?
Candidate cannot identify organizational structures that specifically support ELL learning.
Candidate can identify roles and responsibilities of stakeholders that support ELL learning.
Candidate identifies and indicates the utility of supervisory and evaluative strategies to improve ELL learning.
Candidate moves from supervision and evaluation to include school cultural elements and external supports to affect ELL learning.
Candidate identifies accountability requirements for ELL success and prescribes specific actions by stakeholders to achieve ELL learning goals.


Assignment: Candidates will read two articles:

Vamos! How School Leaders Promote Equity and Excellence for Bilingual Students Educational Administration Quarterly October 1, 2012 48: 583-625

Skrla, L., Scheurich, J.J., Garcia, J.  and Nolly, G. Equity Audits: A Practical Leadership Tool for Developing Equitable and Excellent Schools.  Educational Administration Quarterly 2004 40: 133

Assignment: Candidates will administer an Equity Audit in their schools.