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Characteristics of Examples

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This page, part of the California English Learner Roadmap: Strengthening Comprehensive Educational Policies, Programs, and Practices for English Learners (CA EL Roadmap) contains examples of system approaches and strategies that illustrate the principles and elements of the CA EL Roadmap. Sharing such examples will model and inspire practitioners throughout California to plan, act, document, and iterate their own cycles of learning, considering the examples of others. The California Department of Education (CDE) will facilitate and curate examples submitted from the field on this site to establish a dynamic, online community of educators focused on effective systems and practices for English learners. 

The principles and elements of the CA EL Roadmap are sufficiently general, and the diversity of California districts and their community characteristics are so vast, that there will likely be a great diversity of implementation scenarios. The examples, accumulated over a period of time, will become a record of system improvement efforts and outcomes, with an increasing number of time-tested and innovative metrics that can be used to gauge implementation and student outcomes, and that are recognized and adopted by educators.

Characteristics of Examples

The examples are chosen to be generative and inspiring. The practices, in agreement with the Castañeda standards, will exhibit the following characteristics: 

  1. They have a research basis that holds promise to have local impact.
  2. They are monitored using local metrics of system implementation and adult learning outcomes.
  3. They pay attention to evidence of student learning outcomes and make adjustments as needed.

They should lead the reader of the example to recognize connections to their own district’s challenges and either inspire an adaptation or spur evidence gathering and sharing of their own approaches to the challenges.

“Evidence” in this case refers to objective information that is broadly interpreted, in contrast to the “scientifically-based research” grounded in randomized control experiments that were a hallmark of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Furthermore, as in the Castañeda standards, evidence should be applied to the theoretical or conceptual model, the implementation, and the locally observed outcomes for the district.

Examples should reflect the variability of local contexts found in districts around California, but should include evidence that can be gathered and monitored to inform the continuous improvement of the system. The use of evidence in continuous improvement cycles is fully consonant with the local capacity-building approach of the Blueprint 2.0 as well as the Local Control Funding Formula and the Local Control and Accountability Plan priorities and the State Board of Education’s  approach to district accountability.

Standards for Reviewing Examples

The following standards are proposed for reviewing examples submitted for inclusion in this online collection of resources, part of the CA EL Roadmap. These standards inform the guidelines for online submission.

Standard 1: Research basis that holds promise to have local impact.

In 1997, the National Research Council released a report on English learners that summarized the research to date. During the intervening years, considerable progress has been made in identifying and documenting promising practices, and developing a nuanced way of judging evidence (including the changes between NCLB in 2001 and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015). Any effort at district reform to address the needs of English learners should begin with a clear specification of the theory (Standard One of Castañeda), and a clear sense of what research base might support the theory. The following are some milestone publications:

  • "Promising Futures" report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (discussed above)
  • Institute of Education Sciences Practice Guides on literacy and academic content/language
  • National Literacy Panel on English learners
  • The CDE's publication of research-based practices
  • Other published syntheses of research on English learners

Such publications should provide an initial impetus to districts looking for an evidentiary foothold into their reform efforts. That said, the conclusions from research by no means guarantee applicability and effectiveness in a given local context—with local variations in capacity for implementation or the appropriateness of an approach for the particular composition of the English learner (EL) student characteristics in the district. Thus, regardless of the strength of the evidence in the research literature, a district contemplating research-based strategies needs to assess the "goodness of fit” of an approach to their own capacity and population, and if deemed worthy of implementation, gather their own evidence around implementation, and judge its efficacy to promote the desired learning outcomes.

Standard 2: Monitoring use of local metrics of system implementation and adult learning outcomes.

Research on effective systems serving English learners speaks to the important role of coherent leadership. In a process of continuous improvement, it would therefore be important to develop meaningful indicators of system implementation, such as:

  1. Leadership roles and responsibilities for EL students are distributed and shared.
  2. Leadership creates different plans for EL students based on individual educational and learning histories (e.g., differentiating between programs for newcomers, long-term English learners, and reclassified English-proficient students).
  3. Professional learning is focused on content pedagogy, active learning, and coherent, sustained, collective participation.
  4. Leadership engages in networks and collaborations with other districts in continuous improvement planning and activities.
  5. District resource allocation processes are driven by strategic priorities for English learners.
Standard 2a: Monitoring use of local metrics of student learning supports and processes.

Student learning outcomes are ultimately products of classroom instruction and student engagement in learning. The capacity of schools and districts to deliver a high intellectual quality of instruction and meaningful access through rigorous instruction depends on the availability of materials, the professional learning opportunities available to teachers, and how the educators in the system are formatively assessing their practice. The following are examples of indicators that might help educators understand the quality of the classroom learning environment.

  1. Materials support scaffolding and opportunities for English learners at all levels of proficiency to engage in intellectually rich learning.
  2. Professional learning opportunities are available for teachers on how to use materials to engage English learners of all levels of proficiency in intellectually rich learning.
  3. Implementation of materials is accompanied by an examination of ongoing evidence of student engagement and learning.

From the perspective of California State Standards-aligned instructional and learning practices, it is especially valuable to gather evidence of students’ oral and written language across disciplinary practices at the classroom and school level, as well as the distribution of the uses of language across English learners with varying levels of proficiency and backgrounds. Examples may include:

  1. Students use language and materials purposefully to describe, explain, persuade, inform, justify, negotiate, entertain, and retell.
  2. Students contribute actively to class and group discussions, such as by asking questions, responding appropriately, clarifying or seeking clarification, building on what others say, or providing useful feedback verbally and in writing.
  3. Students demonstrate metalinguistic behaviors (making explicit references to language and communication) while engaged with structured cohesive texts, expanding and enriching ideas, or combining and condensing ideas.
  4. Teachers monitor student participation in learning activities and provide support to build on the strengths and meet the needs of individual students.

The socioemotional climate is culturally and linguistically respectful and appropriate, and could be monitored in a variety of methods, including student climate and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) surveys.

Standard 3: Evidence of student learning outcomes.

English learners come from a range of educational and learning histories; districts and schools can vary considerably in the composition of their English learners. The state data system has made available a differentiated view for English learners with varying number of years in EL programs or services ((“EL 0–3 years,” “At-Risk 4–5 years,” and [Long-Term English Learner] “LTEL 6+ years,” “EL 4+ years not at risk of LTEL,” [Reclassified Fluent English Proficient] “RFEP," and “Ever-EL” [current plus former English learners]), as well as various state-specified statuses. Dually identified students (EL students with disabilities) are also a significant portion of the population, especially concentrated in the long-term English learner population at the secondary level. 

It is important to examine local data on student learning, to the extent possible, considering the composition of the students. For example, looking at student progress in the area of English language proficiency (the California English Language Development Test [CELDT] or the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California [ELPAC] scores) will show more rapid progress for newcomer populations with low initial proficiency scores than in students who are at higher levels of English proficiency, as has been observed by researchers. At the same time, students who begin with higher levels of English proficiency attain reclassification earlier than those who start at lower levels of initial English proficiency. 

The range of evidence around student learning might include:

  1. Statistically tallied information from formative assessment practices
  2. Periodic EL-focused classroom observational or shadowing to monitor level of student engagement and opportunities for academic language use
  3. Local interim/benchmark assessment results
  4. Summative assessments in content from California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) (the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium [SBAC] in ELA and math, the forthcoming California Spanish Assessment [CSA] for Spanish language arts, and the California Science Test)
  5. Summative assessments in English language proficiency (CELDT/ELPAC)
  6. Local (including classroom-level) assessment evidence
  7. Student progress toward meeting the reclassification criteria
  8. Reclassification percentages
  9. Post reclassification progress in academic assessments

Questions:   Language Policy and Leadership Office | ELROADMAPPROJECT@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0845
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, April 3, 2019
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