Inclusion of English language learners in conversion small schools
Plett, Bethany Joy
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Small school reform is an increasingly popular reform in urban comprehensive high schools. Efforts to divide large high schools into small school groups have been funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as by the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES). The Coalition of Essential Schools is a network of small schools that adhere to similar educational ideologies such as the desirability to provide inclusive educational environments. CES promotes inclusion as a means to equitable and democratic education. This study explains the tensions the philosophy and practice of inclusion has produced concerning English language learner (ELL) programs in conversion small schools. This study investigates (a) the ways in which ELL programs in conversion small schools have supported inclusive education, (b) the ways small school inclusion has affected ELL programs, and (c) the impact inclusion philosophy in conversion small schools on inclusive and equitable instruction for ELL students. Through a multi-case qualitative study including interviews and observations, the contexts for the ELL programs in three different conversion schools are investigated and described. The data shows that none of the ELL programs investigated have been able to fully support instructional inclusion either due to a lack of belief in the efficacy of inclusion or a lack of resources. Small school inclusion has affected ELL programs differently in each school. At one school, the ELL program felt almost no effects of the conversion. At another, the program is radically different than previous to the conversion. Third, inclusive and equitable instruction for ELL students in conversion small schools, even in the best case, is happening only in some classes. Due to a lack of resources, no ELL program has been able to implement inclusion as a programmatic reform. Finally, the impetus to involve ELL students in inclusion programs is highly influenced by special education policies rather than by legislation overseeing ELLs. The study concludes that inclusion is understood and practiced differently at each site. At the sites where any type of inclusion was practiced, teachers reported that inclusion provided ELL students with more social than academic benefits.