The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Educational Administration and Leadership, K-12: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. James Johnson

Second Advisor

Dr. Kim Hiel

Third Advisor

Dr. Frances Kayona

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Amy Young

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

English Learners, Multilingual Learners, Best Practices, High Language Growth, English Learner best practice, English Learner strategies


Multilingual learners are K-12 students who speak an additional language to English and have been screened and identified as “lack[ing] the necessary English skills to participate fully in academic classes taught in English” (Minnesota Statute 124D.59, subd. 2). With all of the variability in multilingual learners, the multilingual learner population is the fastest-growing population of public school students in the US (McKeon, 2005). In the fall of 2016, 4.9 million students in the United States were identified as multilingual learners, which is 9.6 percent of the total US student population (US Department of Education, 2019). In Minnesota during the 2017-2018 school year, 73,128 students, or 8.5 percent identified as English learners (Minnesota Department of Education, 2019).

There is a legal and legislative history that exists both nationally and within Minnesota in support of multilingual learners and equitable education rights (Scanlan & López, 2015). In Minnesota, all school districts enrolling multilingual learners must implement an educational program that meets the linguistic needs of the students (Minn. Stat. § 124D.61, 2018). Though language programs are critical to the success of multilingual learners, school and district leadership is second only to classroom teaching as a major influence on student learning (Leithwood, Day, Sammons, Harris, & Hopkins, 2006).

The study aimed to address the limited research on best practices of Minnesota schools with higher than average multilingual learner language growth as measured by language development assessments. The mixed methods study examined the common practices of leaders in schools identified under ESSA as achieving high language growth through qualitative and quantitative data from school administrators and multilingual program coordinators/lead teachers from four elementary schools in Minnesota. This data was evaluated using the Elfers and Stritikus (2014) framework of multilingual learner programming. It also identified the barriers encountered by the schools in implementing multilingual learner programs.

Findings suggested that the most utilized programming components with the highest average implementation were: Professional development targets classroom teachers, Support data-based discussions of individual student progress, and Use data to identify areas for improvement. Commonalities outside of the Elfers and Stritikus framework included building relationships, communication, focus on writing, pull-out instruction, asset-based inclusion, and administrator support and knowledge of multilingual programs. Differences between school practices included common curriculums, focused core instruction, multilingual teachers being multilingual learners, and personalized learning. The main barriers identified by participants were around time, funding/staffing, bias, and the strategies to overcome the barriers centered on intentionality and advocacy.



To reach the summit of my doctoral journey is a joyful experience, and it certainly was not trekked in isolation.

To my Cohort 10 friends: Anne Graner, Chris Rogers, Josie Koivisto, Julianne Schwietz, Lauren Whiteford, Lisa Whitney, Lydia Kabaka, Tamuriel Grace, and Zach Dingmann. Thank you for showing me what a cohort should look like in words and actions. Your consistent humor, support, and dedication to each other molded my leadership and support of students and staff.

To my professors and especially to my committee at St. Cloud State University: Dr. Kim Hiel, Dr. Frances Kayona, and Dr. Amy Young. Your feedback and patience throughout the writing process was immeasurable. To my chairperson, Dr. Jim Johnson: after three years of guiding me, I am certain you will enjoy your well-deserved break from my emails and phone calls. I would not be here today if it weren’t for you showing me what I could accomplish.

To my in-laws Dennis and Liz, to my eight sisters, to my parents Jim and Marcia. Thank you for encouraging me and helping watch my children so I could focus on my writing. Your constant hugs and listening were what I needed to keep going.

To my children, Stella and Dominic. I hope that seeing me through this process from beginning to end makes you as proud of me as I am (and will always be) of the two of you. Thank you for being the reasons I do my best every day, and for being my sunshine.

To my spouse, Kern. Your encouragement and support could never be repaid. Thank you for loving me and giving patience and grace during classes and writing. You never doubted me and always offered just what I needed to keep going.

Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.

Atul Gawande. Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

Because in education…we’re always looking for that perfect model, that perfect thing. Buy it, create it. It doesn’t exist. So be okay with that. Keep looking at data, keep striving for 100 percent on everything. It’s a constant work in progress.

Principal C, 2020



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