Center for the Success of English Learners (CSEL)


Researchers from MCPER and six other institutions have formed the Center for the Success of English Learners (CSEL), an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) National Research and Development Center focused on addressing the critical need of improving opportunities and achievement for English learners in secondary school settings. CSEL is organized around two major research strands: (1) identifying and removing barriers related to school tracking through analysis of administrative and newly collected data using a mixed-methods approach (policy strand), and (2) developing and testing instructional interventions that improve social studies and science instruction for English learners in the secondary grades (intervention strand). MCPER’s Sharon Vaughn serves as the overall associate director of CSEL and lead investigator of the social studies research. From 2020 to 2025, MCPER staff members will be involved in intervention and assessment development and a series of randomized controlled trials to examine the efficacy and feasibility of instructional approaches for secondary English learners.

Goals of the Study

  • Examine extant and newly collected data to identify barriers (e.g., school tracking) related to access for English learners (policy strand)
  • Develop and test the efficacy of instructional approaches designed to improve outcomes in science and social studies for English learners in grades 6 and 9 (intervention strand)

Project Design

Purpose and Background

The purpose of this project is derived directly from two recent consensus reports from the National Academies on promoting the educational success of children and youth learning English (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017) and English learners in STEM content learning (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018). These reports highlight the importance of both policies and instructional practices that provide English learners access to grade-level course content.

Research Plans

The project is organized around two major research strands, one focused on policies and practices related to school tracking, and one focused on improving student outcomes in science and social studies in grades 6 and 9 through development and testing of interventions that leverage the use of three proven instructional elements that operate across disciplines: purposeful active engagement of students, team-based learning, and formative assessment.

The MCPER team is currently in the first 2 years of the social studies instruction development work. The goal during this time is to enhance lessons through iterative improvement cycles that will culminate in a fully developed set of integrated practices that social studies teachers can implement with their students in grades 6 and 9. We will collect data on the usability, feasibility, social validity, and promise of the instructional approaches developed. Years 3–5 will be dedicated to examining the efficacy of these instructional approaches through a series of large-scale randomized control trials.


Sixth- and ninth-grade English learners and their teachers

Dissemination Activities

As a National Research and Development Center funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, CSEL will engage in national leadership and dissemination activities. These activities will be primarily promoted on the project’s primary website. Look out for opportunities to learn more about ongoing policy and intervention research.