Urban school leadership for elementary science education: Meeting the needs of English Language Learners
Science education reform and state testing accountability call upon principals to become instructional leaders in science. Specifically, elementary school principals must take an active role in science instruction to effectively improve science education for all students including English Language Learners. As such, the research questioned posed in this study centered on How are elementary school principals addressing the academic needs of Latino Spanish-speaking English language learners within science education? This study employed a qualitative research design to identify the factors contributing to the exemplary performance in science, as measured by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), for English Language Learner students in three high poverty bilingual elementary schools based on a multiple case study. As part of the data collection process, interviews were conducted with three school principals, three science academic support teachers, and two 5th grade bilingual teachers. Additionally, observations were acquired through school principal shadowing.
The findings revealed four attributes necessary for effective instructional leadership in science education. First, Positive School Culture was defined as the core that linked the other three instructional leadership attributes and thus increased their effectiveness. Second, Clear Goals and Expectations were set by making science a priority and ensuring that English language learners were transitioning from Spanish to English instruction by the fifth grade. Third, Critical Resourcing involved hiring a science academic support teacher, securing a science classroom on campus, and purchasing bilingual instructional materials. Fourth, principal led and supported Collaboration in which teachers met to discuss student performance based data in addition to curriculum and instruction.
These research findings are vital because by implementing these best practices of elementary school principals, educators are positioned to lay the foundation for science needed for ELLs to continue their educational career with the tools needed to succeed in future science classes and in turn college, answering the call to effectively improve science within the educational system.