• by María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • November – December 2008 • Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.

In July 2008, Judge William Wayne Justice ruled that the state of Texas failed to effectively educate secondary level English language learners and to monitor school district compliance with Equal Educational Opportunity Act and state policy related to secondary English language learners.

In October 2008, at the annual Texas Association for Bilingual Education conference, IDRA’s president, Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, presented a research-based framework that provides guidance for design, implementation and evaluation of an effective English language learner program. Her presentation was part of a panel discussion on “A Critical Examination of Judge William Wayne Justice’s July 2008 Decision Regarding Education of ELLs: Provisions of the Case and Implications.”

Dr. Robledo Montecel challenged participants to find ways in which the “palpable injustice” cited by Judge Justice against English language learners is no longer tolerated. Citing IDRA research presented to the court indicating that English language learners have substantially higher failure rates, higher retention rates and higher dropout rates than other students, she stressed that the denial of equal educational opportunity to tens of thousands of children who do not speak English must stop. She noted that the State of Texas and the Texas Education Agency must meet their responsibility to “ensure that school districts are providing equal educational opportunity in all schools” as required by the court.

The panel was moderated by Norma Cantú, professor of law and education at the University of Texas at Austin. Other panelists included: Dr. Joe J. Bernal, former member of the Texas State Board of Education and former member of the Texas legislature, focusing along with Dr. Robledo Montecel on the topic of “Historical Antecedents with Focus on the U.S. vs. Texas Case“; David Hinojosa, education litigation attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), focusing on the topic of “State Failing Students with Limited English Skills: The Justice Court Abrupt Reversal”; The Honorable Roberto R. Alonzo, Texas state representative, focusing on the topic of “The Mexican American Legislative and Senate Hispanic Caucuses’ Response”; and Dr. José Agustín Ruiz-Escalante, president of TABE, Dr. Leo Gómez, professor at the University of Texas Pan American, and Jesse Romero, legislative consultant with TABE, BEAM and ENABLE, focusing on the topic of “The TABE Action Plan.”

The framework presented by Dr. Robledo Montecel and that is provided below outlines seven key components: state leadership, oversight and compliance; governance; fair funding; parent and community engagement; student achievement and support; teaching and curriculum quality; and accountability. It is intended to serve as a basis for further action at all levels of the Texas education system from the state education agency to individual school campuses and their communities.

A Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners

Overarching Principle Access to quality education is a right of all children

High quality schooling that provides equal educational opportunities for secondary English language learners (ELLs) must include seven key components: state leadership, oversight and compliance; governance; fair funding; parent and community engagement; student achievement and support; teaching and curriculum quality; and accountability. Each component is defined by research-based elements.

State Leadership, Oversight and Compliance

  • Design and Implement a Robust Monitoring and Compliance System: TEA’s oversight and compliance responsibilities must address a monitoring system that reviews: (1) adherence of program design to quality program standards; (2) fidelity of implementation; and (3) high comparable academic achievement of ELL students and that ensures state and local accountability for the educational success of all ELL students.
  • Legislate Appropriate Policies and Funding: State legislators must ensure that appropriate policies and funding that support research-based and effective instruction of ELL students are in place and include school accountability measures.
  • Generate Responsive and Practical Rules and Regulations: The commissioner must ensure that state rules and regulations reflect the spirit and intent of the law as it relates to high comparable achievement for all ELL students.


  • Make Education of ELLs a Priority: Educational success of ELLs must be a priority for school boards and be reflected in local school policy and campus improvement plans.
  • Require Administrator Support and Leadership: Administrators must establish the education and success of ELLs as a high priority that includes consistent program monitoring, evaluation and appropriate modifications in service delivery to ensure student success.

Fair Funding

  • Provide Equitable Funding: Quality education for ELLs requires equitable funding based on actual costs and provided through a weighted student approach.
  • Target Funding for Specific Services to ELLs: Provisions must be in place to ensure that funding provided for ELLs is actually used for the delivery of services for those students.

Parent and Community Engagement

  • Engage Parents as Equal Partners: Schools must engage parents of ELL students as equal partners in the design and implementation of school-based solutions.
  • Involve Community: Schools must ensure that communities participate in the design, implementation and evaluation of educational services provided for ELLs.

Student Achievement and Support

  • Expect High Comparable Achievement: Schools must establish high comparable achievement and performance goals and expectations for ELL students compared to non-ELLs at the state level.
  • Implement Reliable and Research-Based Student Identification and Placement Procedures: Secondary ELLs must be identified using psychometrically-sound English language proficiency and appropriate achievement assessment measures administered by qualified staff.
  • Provide Appropriate Validation Processes: Identification and placement must be made by the LPAC, in accordance with state required procedures, and also must include information and validation of the ELL student’s previous educational experience.
  • Create and Implement Networks of Student Support: Networks of support, such as student learning communities, mentors and coaches, must be available to ELLs.
  • Ensure Non-Segregated Settings: Schools must ensure that ELL students are not segregated in campus and school district activities.
  • Provide Overall Student Support: Schools must ensure that ELL students experience the social, psychological and cognitive support to succeed in school.
  • Ensure Equal Participation in Extracurricular Activities: ELL student participation in extracurricular activities must be comparable with non-ELL students.

Teaching and Curriculum Quality

  • Provide Qualified Staff: All ELL students must be taught by teachers who are appropriately certified in the content area and English as a second language (ESL).
  • Provide Continuous Professional Development: In addition to ESL teachers of record, all staff serving ELL students must be provided continuous professional development in effective, research-based practices serving ELLs.
  • Design and Implement a Rigorous and Relevant Curriculum that Prepares ELLs for College: A curriculum must be designed specifically for ELLs and must meet the rigor and relevance requirements of the state’s standard curriculum.
  • Implement Research-Based Instructional Strategies: Instruction of ELLs must integrate the development of content with the simultaneous development of English language skills.
  • Provide Appropriate Supplemental Instructional Services: Appropriate supplemental instructional programs and activities must be accessible to ELLs who are not reaching state, district and campus achievement goals.
  • Ensure Academic Success Before Exiting: ELL students must be required to meet comparable high achievement in the content areas, including English language proficiency, as measured through the state-mandated test.
  • Monitor for Sustainability of Academic Success: Academic progress of former ELL students must be monitored for two years after exiting and appropriate measures taken, such as re-enrolling or re-adjusting curriculum for students who do not maintain acceptable academic performance levels.


  • Implement a Multi-Dimensional Monitoring System: Local monitoring must be multi-dimensional and occur around three major activities: (1) adherence of program design to quality program standards; (2) fidelity of implementation; and (3) high comparable academic achievement of ELL students.
  • Hold the State, School Districts and Campuses Accountable: Schools must be held accountable for the high comparable academic achievement of all ELL students and must inform parents and community of progress in meeting district and campus goals.

© Intercultural Development Research Association, October 2008

IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization, directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., dedicated to creating schools that work for all children. As a vanguard leadership development and research team for more than three decades, IDRA has worked with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA conducts research and development activities, creates, implements and administers innovative education programs and provides teacher, administrator, and parent training and technical assistance. 210-444-1710 • www.idra.org


Framing Systems Change for Student Success,” IDRA Newsletter. By Robledo Montecel, M. (2007, January). Intercultural Development Research Association.

Teachers Pressing for Quality Teaching – Lessons from Content Teachers of English Language Learners,” IDRA Newsletter. By Villarreal, A. (2005, January). Intercultural Development Research Association.

Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English: A Guide. By Robledo Montecel, M., Cortez, J., Cortez, A., & Villarreal, A. (2002). Intercultural Development Research Association.

“Successful Bilingual Education Programs: Development and the Dissemination of Criteria to Identify Promising and Exemplary Practices In Bilingual Education at the National Level,” Bilingual Research Journal. By Robledo Montecel, M., & Cortez, J.D. (2002). 26 (1).

Policy Research Report No. 10: Academic Achievement of Elementary Students with Limited English Proficiency in Texas Public Schools. (1998, January). Texas Education Agency.

María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., is the IDRA president and CEO. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2008, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November – December 2008 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]