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How Hillsborough County, FL used Ellevation to transform compliance and enhance instruction for 23,000 English Learners.

Ellevation is proud to play a role in serving school districts as they help their English Language Learners achieve their highest aspirations. We are also delighted to showcase the gains schools are making with the help of our tools, including our Ellevation Strategies. As part of our Success Stories series, enjoy this piece about Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida and how they are using data to better uncover the needs and gifts of their ELs and building teacher capacity to better serve those students.

When budget constraints reduced the Hillsborough ESOL team to just four core members, managing compliance and supporting instruction for 23,000 English Learners became a staggering challenge. Faced with the daunting task of advocating and planning for such a large and diverse population of ELs, the team often stayed late and carried piles of work home. They navigated mazes of data and wrote hundreds of compliance documents. They each trained teachers through professional development at dozens of schools, often miles apart. Despite their energy and dedication, the team grew fatigued and overwhelmed. At that point, they turned to Ellevation.

Better access to data = better planning
For the Hillsborough ESOL team, finding EL student data was tedious and time-consuming. Raquel Coykendall, District Resource Teacher of Programs for ELLs, explained, “We had to use multiple portals and speak with many different people just to get proficiency scores.”

Without accurate and accessible data, the team could not make timely and informed decisions. Ellevation brought data together from multiple sources, providing the critical information for the ESOL team to assess the district’s needs and more strategically plan staffing, scheduling, professional development, and instruction. Ellevation helped transform numbers into action.

Uncovering needs, discovering gifts
For the ESOL team, the data provided insights from a new vantage point, empowering them to see key information from home languages to language proficiency scores, numbers of LTELs to growth in standardized test scores. For principals, specialists and teachers, Ellevation created visibility into student needs. Sharing a new trend, Coykendall said, “People are really paying attention to children’s accommodations, their need for differentiation and instructional support...we can now better help students based on their needs.”

While needs became more apparent, so did student strengths. Raquel shared a story about a student who arrived in Hillsborough schools without significant formal education in her native Honduras. When the student enrolled as a 10th grader, she was exempt from taking the language arts portion of the state test, but still had to take math. Brand new to the country, the student scored a three out of a possible five. Raquel expanded, “Then the following year as an 11th grader, she took the test again, as a second year EL student in this country and she scored a five on the math and a four in reading!”

This wasn’t a singular example. Coykendall added, “Ellevation helped us identify students for our gifted program. We found students in a high school foundational English class and realized they should be in Honors because...they’re brilliant.”

Push the desks together
Feeling similarly overwhelmed, classroom teachers needed a better way to engage the students in their classrooms. They needed a guide. At the classroom level, the relevant student data combined with research-based instructional activities in Ellevation Strategies offered a path forward.

To describe the power of Ellevation Strategies, Coykendall shared a story when she and a high school ESOL teacher invited the school reading specialist to explore Strategies. She described the energy: “It quickly turned into a planning session for their school and was amazing.” The collaboration didn’t end there. Coykendall narrated how the teachers were inspired by the instructional activities and differentiation supports, “The ESOL teacher and the reading specialist pushed their desks together so they can work together all the time. They saw that readers are ELs and ELs are both have the same language.”

Coykendall further described the power of Strategies crossing grade levels and content areas: “Its uses are so far reaching and for every person in the building. It reduces anxiety for teachers and helps with data driven planning and interventions which can easily be designed, tracked and planned for multiple stakeholders at any given school site.”

“At the end of the day Ellevation is allowing us to advocate for our ELs more effectively and in a way that is actually helping these kids long term. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

— Raquel Coykendall, District Resource Teacher of Programs for English Language Learners

“With Ellevation, there’s now a place where everybody has access to all EL student data. Ellevation turned on a light.” — Raquel Coykendall, District Resource Teacher of Programs for English Language Learners