This summer I decided to rekindle an old friendship that had been somewhat hiding in the shadows for the past 11 years. I decided to dust off my doctoral dissertation published in 2006 and revisit the findings. Back then, I was relieved to be done and anxious to put the process behind me. Although I still have the occasional nightmare that a chapter is due, the friendship (or on some days enmity) had been relegated to a wooden bookcase.
My research focused on developing administrators as instructional leaders to support English Language Learners (ELLs). The study attempted to shed some light on the level of understanding of three school administrators with regards to specific instructional practices and their implementation.
Not surprisingly, in 2017 the challenge remains. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that the percentage of public school students in the United States who were ELLs was higher in school year 2014–15 (9.4 percent, or 4.6 million students) than in 2004–05 (9.1 percent, or 4.3 million students). The dramatic demographic shifts occurring all over the United States have placed greater demands on school leaders to expand their understanding of English Language Learners while supporting classroom teachers. In urban school districts, the burden is greater. Giving teachers and administrators the right tools to improve student outcomes and taking the time to explain the “how” is a necessary step in meeting district, state, and national accountability measures.
Three key recommendations from my 2006 findings stand true to this day:
- Administrators feel the need for professional development to be on-going and systematic, as well as an opportunity to collaborate and network with other colleagues.
- Professional development for administrators must be aligned with professional development for teachers.
- Professional development must include topics on understanding students’ attributes, cultural backgrounds, and learning styles.
The need to provide more targeted and job-embedded professional development activities for administrators is imminent. As we develop roadmaps for the upcoming school year, hopefully this research provides something to mull over during the warm and sunny summer days!
You can find the full doctoral dissertation here: