Building Capacity to Promote College- and Career-Readiness for English Language Learners

Building Capacity to Promote College- and Career-Readiness for English Language Learners
Building Capacity to Promote College- and Career-Readiness for English Language Learners


This fact-finding trip, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, enabled state policymakers to learn about Texas’ strategies for moving its English Language Learners (ELLs) to postsecondary success, and highlighted the successful strategies of the Austin Independent School District (AISD) and Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Click here to view a policy brief on the Lessons Learned from this Trip

Nearly every state has seen rapid increases in the enrollment of students speaking languages other than English, and policymakers at all levels struggle to address the persistent achievement gaps between ELLs and other public school students. Texas has the second-largest ELL population in the country. In AISD, 28% of students are ELLs, and this population has been steadily increasing for approximately 20 years. AISD has included the ELL population as a primary focus of its district-wide high school reform initiative since 2005.

Topics discussed on the fact-finding trip included building a statewide framework for rigorous instruction; prioritizing ELLs at district, regional, and state levels; building human capital; and meeting the needs of rural districts through shared services. The sessions were structured to ensure time for cross-agency learning among a team of participants from each state, as well as with the other state teams in attendance.

In addition to panel discussions with key leaders of TEA and AISD, our site visits showcased high schools that have partnered with AISD to redesign ELL instruction at the secondary level. This project, funded by a high school redesign grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a three-year partnership between AISD and WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) program. Starting in 2007, all staff at Lanier High School and International High School were provided with extensive professional development in effective instruction for ELLs, including instructional support for core content areas and training through an apprenticeship model to provide ongoing professional development to other schools.

The first site visit was to Lanier High School, a large, comprehensive high school that has the largest enrollment of ELLs in the district (approximately 475 ELLs out of 1400 students). From 2007-2009, Lanier’s ELL students’ showed vast improvements in their rates of passing high school exit exams in all subjects, and these gains outpaced school and state averages for all students.

Our second site visit showcased another high school participating in the three-year QTEL program, the International High School. This small school of 240 students was established in 2004 to address the needs of recent immigrant students in grades 9-10.



  • Senator Leticia Van De Putte, Texas State Senate
  • Lizzette Reynolds, Deputy Commissioner, Statewide Policy and Programs, TEA
  • Susie Coultress, Director of Bilingual/ESL Education, TEA
  • Laura Ayala, Director of ELL Assessment, TEA
  • Roberto Manzo, Program Manager, School Readiness and Partnerships, TEA
  • Dr. Meria Carstarphen, Superintendent, AISD
  • Dennis Hill, Superintendent, Llano Independent School District
  • Dr. Aída Walqui, Director, Teacher Professional Development Program, West Ed
  • Dr. Deb Palmer, Project Director, Proyecto Maestría Collaborative for Teacher Leadership in Bilingual and ESL Education, University of Texas at Austin
  • Dr. Ramona Treviño, Chief Academic Officer, AISD
  • Edmund Oropez, Director of High Schools, AISD
  • Mollie Avelino, Director of Secondary ESL, AISD
  • Celia Glick, Director of Dual Language, AISD
  • Katherine Ryan, Principal, Lanier High School
  • Leticia Vega, Principal, International High School
  • Dr. Ervin Knezek, Deputy Director of Academic Services, Region XIII Education Service Center
  • Janet O’Keefe, Bilingual/ESL Education Specialist, Region XIII Education Service Center
  • Evangelina Orozco, Immigrant College Coordinator, AISD










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