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Our Studies

Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the nation’s leading source for rigorous, independent education research, evaluation, and statistics, the National Research & Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners currently has several studies underway.


Decades of sociocultural and ecological theories focus on the relevant nested and interlinked systems that impact educational experiences for all students. Our work builds upon previous research indicating that English Learners need:

  1. Quality opportunities to learn. Students need meaningful opportunities to simultaneously develop English, other content (like math, science, and social studies), and critical thinking without falling behind. Our research aims to precisely identify a pedagogical approach, quality learning opportunities, and teaching practices that enable students at any starting point to leap forward and excel in all areas.

  2. Educational decisions and policies informed by longitudinal development. An arc of experiences over the years affects when and how a child learns a second language. We study what most impacts English Learner trajectories across grades and levels, so decision-makers can expand on what works and prevent early roadblocks that may predict later performance.

  3. A toolbox of ecological solutions to overcome systemic barriers. We seek to uncover which school, district, state, and federal policies most affect student outcomes. Many people at all levels—classrooms to schools to districts and beyond—have a critical role to play in vertically creating solutions that give English Learners the American education they deserve.

Opportunities  to learn for  English Learners

In 2019, our partners from the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, CRESST (at the University of California, Los Angeles), Heritage and Associates, and WestEd came together to home in on research needs and create our portfolio of work. The objective: answer the complex question of how to offer quality opportunities to learn for adolescent English Learners.


Our resulting portfolio of research and development work seeks


  • To identify opportunities and barriers to learning throughout all relevant and dynamically interconnected systems, and

  • To view change through an ecological perspective that calls for people at all levels to play a role in solutions, and for solutions to encapsulate developmental student context.

Learn more about our studies


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