Schools to Learn from Nomination

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our vision at Understanding Language is to increase college, career and community readiness for all students - especially English Language Learners (ELLs) - by transforming the quality of their educational experiences.

We are looking for a set of secondary schools that have done exemplary work in developing students’ English language proficiency in the context of rigorous academic instruction-- schools that have produced graduates who are college, career, and community ready. In this work, we aim to study and profile a set of schools from which others can learn.  Our goal is to provide educators with examples of what successful schools do to create successful learning environments for English language learners.

Help us find schools that are implementing innovative and effective school and classroom models for ELLs!

Selection Criteria

Our selection criteria for our case study schools are guided by the Understanding Language Instructional Principles for ELLs and Carnegie's Ten Effective Secondary School Design Principles. We believe that schools that best support ELLs create learning environments that incorporate the following principles:

  1. Instruction focuses on providing ELLs with opportunities to engage in discipline-specific practices which are designed to build conceptual understanding and language competence in tandem.
  2. Instruction leverages ELLs’ home language(s), cultural assets, and prior knowledge.   
  3. Standards-aligned instruction for ELLs is rigorous, grade-level appropriate, and provides deliberate and appropriate scaffolds.
  4. Instruction moves ELLs forward by taking into account their English proficiency level(s) and prior schooling experiences.
  5. Instruction fosters ELLs’ autonomy by equipping them with the strategies necessary to comprehend and use language in a variety of academic settings.
  6. Diagnostic tools and formative assessment practices are employed to measure students’ content knowledge, academic language competence, and participation in disciplinary practices.

Additionally, we will be examining a range of college and career readiness outcomes from the nominated schools. Our advisory team will make the final selections for our case study schools as well as provide guidance in our study and analysis of these schools. Nominations are due by October 6, 2015.


Understanding Language wants your help in identifying secondary schools (middle schools and high schools) that have shown evidence of success for their English Language Learners.

Fill out the form online to nominate a school. Nomination schools should be public schools serving secondary school students (grades 6-12) in the United States.  Based on your nominations, we will select five schools to profile in our work and share insights and innovative practices with our educator learning community in the fall of 2015.

Our team will collect your nominations and will review responses based on the following set of questions:

1. Describe the success of the school in terms of traditional (e.g., academic achievement test scores, ELL rate of reclassification, graduation rates) and/or non-traditional (e.g., measures of social emotional well-being, community engagement, special awards) measures.

2. How is the school organized to support ELLs' academic language development? (e.g. How are courses organized for ELLs?  What types of collaborations take place among staff, such as between academic content and ESL/ELD specialists? Is there shared learning time within the master schedule? How do teachers grow their professional expertise?)

3. In what ways does the school support ELLs' academic language development together with preparing them for college, career, and community readiness?

4. Describe the school culture and climate. (e.g. How does the school leverage the cultural and language assets of the students and the community? How is the school staffed to reflect and respect the students' cultural and linguistic makeup?)

5. Is there a clear and ambitious mission and vision that shapes the school's work with ELLs? Describe the school's mission and vision. How does the leadership support this mission and/or vision?

Online Nomination Form


Email us at