For English-Learners, an Effective Teacher in Any Language Is What Matters

October 07, 2014

By Sarah D. Sparks

Want to find a better teacher for English-language learners? Start by looking for teachers who add the most value for any students, rather than limiting the search to those who may have had specialized training to work with ELLs.

That's the conclusion of a new Stanford University study, "Is a Good Teacher a Good Teacher for All?" in online preview in the journal Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Education researchers Susanna Loeb, James Soland, and Lindsay Fox used a value-added measure to look at the effectiveness of teachers both with and without bilingual certification in Miami-Dade public schools in Florida.

They analyzed teachers' effectiveness in reading and in math, with English-learners (both current and those who had been considered not proficient in English within the last three years) and those fluent in English. The researchers conducted separate analyses of English-learners and non-ELLs in the same school and the same classroom, to correct for potential differences in how students are sorted to teachers.

Loeb and her colleagues found that generally, a great teacher is great for all students, and an ineffective teacher is pretty much ineffective for everyone, too. In math, nearly six in 10 teachers who rated in the top 20 percent of effectiveness for students fluent in English were also in the top quintile for English-learners. In reading, 42 percent of teachers in the top 20 percent for non-ELLs were also most effective for ELLs.