Improving Instruction for English Learners Through Accessibility Decision Making (Improving Instruction): Home

The National Center on Educational Outcomes and the West Virginia Department of Education are collaborating on a grant project titled Improving Instruction for English Learners Through Accessibility Decision Making. The three primary project goals are to:

  • Improve teachers’ understanding of how to select, implement, and evaluate the use of accessibility features and accommodations by English learners, including English learners with disabilities, for instruction and assessment
  • Create a school culture that values the learning of all students, including English learners
  • Improve outcomes for English learners in math, English language arts, and English language proficiency


Students who are English learners represent one of the fastest growing groups in U.S. schools. These students, who have a wide range of backgrounds and cultures, are developing proficiency in English and learning grade-level content at the same time.

Students who are English learners sometimes need supports called accessibility features or accommodations in order to access grade-level content in classes and on tests. Accessibility features and accommodations, such as a bilingual dictionary or extra time, can help these students learn and demonstrate their knowledge.  

The Improving Instruction project starts from the premise that educators, parents, and English learners themselves should all be able to participate in decisions about accessibility features and accommodations. The resources developed by Improving Instruction help the stakeholders make these decisions based on the individual student’s characteristics and needs.

Project Activities

  • Administer a survey to selected West Virginia English learners that explores their perspectives on accessibility features and accommodations.
  • Develop a parent-educator toolkit that contains varied multilingual resources, in print and audio formats, related to accessibility decision making for students who are English learners. Parents, teachers, and principals gave input on the development of the toolkit.
  • Create two online professional development modules about accessibility features and accommodations for English learners aimed at elementary and secondary teachers in West Virginia and nationwide. The secondary module was developed and piloted first, and the elementary module was created to parallel the secondary module.
  • Pilot the secondary teacher professional development module through Marshall University with over 60 West Virginia teachers. In addition to reviewing the secondary module, participants read about best practices for making accessibility decisions, watched videos of a fictional teacher making decisions, practiced making decisions for a fictional student, and participated in collaborative small-group discussions.
  • Conduct a research study to determine the best quiz questions to embed into the secondary module.
  • Create an online professional development course for West Virginia teachers, incorporating the two modules.
  • Make the two teacher professional development modules available nationwide on the NCEO website.
  • Review the recent research literature related to accessibility features and accommodations for English learners.
  • Analyze state assessment data to find trends on accessibility features and accommodations use among English learners.
  • Obtain input on all activities from a panel of national experts in assessment and instruction of English learners and English learners with disabilities.


The Improving Instruction project (2016-2021) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition (#T365Z160115). The project officer is Elizabeth Judd.