Academic Literacy Through Sheltered Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary Schools

CAL has conducted research in the "Academic Literacy through Sheltered Instruction for Secondary English Language Learners" project. In the 30-month project, CAL worked intensively with approximately 60 educators in the Clifton, NJ district in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Foundation. CAL collected and analyzed data to investigate the relationship between professional development in the SIOP Model and the academic achievement of secondary English language learners (ELLs). The project built on CAL's previous research on the SIOP Model, an instructional approach to sheltered instruction in which teachers use specific strategies to promote language development and acquisition of grade-level content knowledge for ELLs.

Project Goals

The project studied the implementation of the SIOP Model for sheltered instruction in Clifton middle and high schools in order to determine if the academic performance of secondary ELLs improves under the instruction of SIOP-trained teachers. The following Major Research Questions guided the project:

  • Do teachers reach high levels of implementation of the SIOP Model during a sustained professional development program after 1 year? After 2 years?
  • Does implementation of the SIOP Model in subject area classrooms result in increased student achievement after 1 year? After 2 years?
  • Does the level of implementation among teachers affect student achievement?

Research Design
CAL collected and analyzed data for students taught by SIOP-trained and comparison group of teachers. The comparison group consisted of teachers from a different district in New Jersey who are not receiving training in the SIOP Model. To measure the academic achievement of both groups of students, CAL staff analyzed their scores on standardized tests mandated by the state. CAL staff used a number of methodological techniques to examine the various data and respond to the research questions. Using the previously developed sheltered instruction observation protocol, CAL staff members also evaluated the teachers' level of implementation of the SIOP Model.

Professional Development
CAL staff worked with content area and ESL teachers in the middle and high schools in Clifton to foster understanding and implementation of the SIOP Model. The SIOP Model is not a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach, but a framework for effective instruction that brings together best practices for teaching content and academic literacy to English language learners. Teachers discover ways to enhance their teaching in order to make the content comprehensible and accessible for all students. The professional development and coaching activities provide a broad repertoire of instructional strategies for use in the classroom, the opportunity to promote a learning community among the team of teachers at each school, and many new ideas for activities, projects, and delivery methods to ensure that all students can learn challenging academic content.

The CAL-facilitated professional development program included summer institutes and follow-up workshops conducted during the school year. The sessions were highly interactive in nature, and provided teachers with a wide variety of strategies for teaching content to English language learners. Through hands-on activities, collaborative mini-projects, analysis of videotaped instruction, readings, and integration of research findings and theoretical principles, the sessions prepared the teachers to implement the SIOP Model in their classrooms. Special attention was paid to writing effective SIOP lesson plans and incorporating strategies that develop learners' academic literacy. The 2004 Clifton Summer SIOP Model Institute was held August 24-26. Four one-day follow up workshops were scheduled for the 2004-2005 school year with a second summer institute and follow-up workshops the following year.

Benefits and Expectations for Participants 
Teachers participating in the SIOP Model research and professional development project received ongoing support as they learn to implement the SIOP Model. In turn, teachers supported the research by participating in the staff development and classroom observations and by submitting lesson plans.

  • Participating teachers were supported by three school-based SIOP coaches throughout the year.
  • Teachers received ongoing technical support from CAL staff through a Web-based distance learning program and an electronic listserv.
  • Each participating teacher was observed at least twice, in the fall and in the spring. A randomly selected subset was observed in the winter as well. These observations were for data collection purposes. The observations were not evaluative and all information was kept at CAL. For each observation, CAL staff provided feedback to the teacher about his or her SIOP lesson via conferencing and written summaries.
  • Participating teachers submitted two lesson plans they developed, one from a lesson taught in the fall and one from a lesson in the spring.
  • During the 2 years, CAL developed SIOP lessons for use across the district.