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Math for English Language Learners

Mathematics for English Language Learners Initiative

As the Hispanic population increases in Texas, the group of students in schools that are classified as English Language Learners (ELL) also grows. As a group, students classified as ELL perform consistently lower on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) than any other group of Texas students. In Spring 2005 only 18 percent of tenth grade students classified as ELL met the state passing standard for the math portion of the TAKS. In comparison, 58 percent of all tenth grade students who took the exam met the state passing standard. Improving the academic achievement of this population of students is an essential part of raising the mathematics achievement level of Texas students.

To address the needs of students in Texas classified as ELL, the Texas State University System (TSUS) Math for English Language Learners (MELL) Initiative was formed in 2005. The TSUS MELL Initiative is a multi-year partnership, funded at 4.8 million dollars, between the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the five schools that belong to the Texas State University System. The initiative aims to improve the performance in mathematics of students classified as ELL through the improvement of mathematics teaching. Dr. Joyce Fischer (Mathematics) is the principal investigator for the Texas State University-San Marcos Mathematics Department portion of the grant which has generated $683,561.91 in funding during its first 2 years.

students photo One aspect of this initiative involves the creation of professional development products for teachers of ELL. The TxState Mathematics Department MELL team created a Classroom Practices Framework (CPF) that reflects best classroom practices for classes that include students classified as ELL. Using the CPF, the team analyzed mathematics professional development models currently in use in the state of Texas to determine which models were most effective for teachers of ELL.
The TxState Mathematics Department MELL team determined that the Texas Mathworks Professional Development Model for teaching was an effective foundation model for use with teachers of ELL. This training model has been refined to specifically address the needs of teachers whose classes include ELL. This refined model, called the ACCION Plan (Active Curriculum & Content: Involving, Orchestrating and Networking), was employed at Mathworks Teacher Training Mathcamps during the summer of 2005 in Brownsville, Texas. Research data shows that this model significantly improved the content knowledge of the teachers who participated in the training and significantly increased the teachers' efficacy about their own teaching abilities. The model has been further refined and will be used to train more teachers of ELL during the summer of 2006.

During the Spring of 2006, the MELL Initiative will launch the Critical Campuses Partnership. This partnership will work with high school teachers and campus and district leaders in areas of Texas that have high proportions of students classified as ELL. The TxState Mathematics Department MELL team will work with high schools in the Brownsville Independent School District.

To view these and other ELL teaching tools and materials visit MELL web page, or for additional information contact

photo Dr. Joyce Fischer