Do your materials meet English learners' needs?

By Crystal Gonzales and Renae Skarin
April 2019
Vol. 40 No. 2

There is substantial evidence documenting the impact of high-quality, educative learning materials on teacher practices and student learning, yet this evidence has not translated widely into more equitable learning opportunities for all students.

English learners tend to have less access to intellectually rich, grade-level content and instructional materials. With most English learners receiving instruction for math and English language arts alongside their non-English learner peers, it can no longer be the norm to simplify the content or rely on supplemental materials targeting English learners. Instructional materials must be well-designed to serve all students.

What do materials that do this well look like, and how do you know if yours measure up?

The English Learners Success Forum, an organization working to enhance instructional materials to address the linguistic and cultural needs of English learners, convened national English learner experts, field-leading content providers, and educators to examine how to integrate English learner supports in English language arts and math materials.

Advisory groups developed a set of guidelines for each content area, vetted them with K-12 educators to ensure they are practical and understandable for those with limited English learner instructional knowledge, and refined them based on pilot testing with content providers.

Using the tools on pp. 62-70, educators and education leaders can reflect on current teaching practices, learning environments, and instructional materials. Through reflection and discussion, we can understand how and why current approaches may not be producing the kinds of results we want for English learner students and begin to change those practices.

These tools are intended for those developing, procuring, or using instructional materials and for those who want to create better learning conditions and academic outcomes for English learners. Educators may complete these inventories independently or in discussion with colleagues.

One option is to form a lesson study collaborative or professional learning community to examine the evidence-based strategies in the tools and work together to surface answers, examples, and evidence for each question about whether and how those practices are in place in your schools or district. You can then build on this discussion to identify materials or practices that needed to be refined or overhauled.


Crystal Gonzales and Renae Skarin

Crystal Gonzales ( is executive director and Renae Skarin ( is director of curriculum review process at English Learners Success Forum.

Executive Director at English Learners Success Forum | + posts

Crystal Gonzales collaborates with national experts, organizations, educators, and content developers to increase the supply of quality of K-12 instructional materials that meet the needs of the growing EL population. Previously, as a program officer at the Helmsley Charitable Trust, she collaborated with national K-12 organizations with a focus on teacher professional development, quality instructional materials, and advocacy for underserved communities. In this role, she worked with EL experts to elevate the needs of ELs among grantees and her grantmaking peers. Gonzales began her career as a 4th-grade bilingual teacher in the Houston ISD. She is currently a member of Education Leaders of Color, Latinos for Education, and is a Pahara NextGen fellow. Gonzales holds a master’s in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from the University of New Mexico. She is a proud native New Mexican and currently resides in NYC.

Director of Curriculum Review Process at English Learners Success Forum | + posts

Renae Skarin works with leading educational experts to design and implement a process for reviewing and providing feedback to curriculum developers on the strength of supports for ELs. Prior to joining the ELSF, she worked at Understanding Language, Stanford University, where she was a researcher, professional developer, curriculum developer, and project manager for projects specializing in issues of equity and accessibility for diverse learners and has a strong background in second language teaching and teacher education both in the U.S. and abroad. Skarin received a B.A. in English, Literacy Studies from California State University, Long Beach, and an M.A. in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in Educational Linguistics at Stanford University. Skarin lives at home with her 15-year-old activist daughter, Kailani, and her sweet dog Stella.

The Learning Professional

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