Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Sheila Gregory, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Barbara Hill, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Darrell Groves, Ed.D.


The purpose of this study was to examine 9th and 10th grade ELL students’ science class placement - sheltered ESL class or non-sheltered mainstream class - and determine if there was a difference in their levels of achievement based on placement. Unlike other academic courses, science incorporates its own terminology that can be difficult for even mainstream non-ELLs to understand. With the goal for English Language Learners to develop scientific proficiency, ELLs must gain an understanding of science substance and practice exploratory propensities for the brain. This is unthinkable without an understanding of science vocabulary.

The researcher examined the following variables as they related to ELL student achievement in science: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), attendance, class size, teacher-student relationship, teacher competency in ELL strategies, instructional strategies, parental involvement, study habits, immigration requirements, age (demographic variable), and gender (demographic variable). Data were gathered using observations, face-to-face teacher and administrator interviews, document analyses of teacher lesson plans, a student survey, and a student focus group.

The sample of students consisted of 30 students - 9 students in mainstream science classes and 21 students in sheltered ESL science classes. Students were chosen to participate in the study based on their Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State (ACCESS) scores. Study participants had a composite score of between 3.0 and 4.9 on the ACCESS test. Study participants’ nine weeks grades, along with other data, were compared to determine if class placement made a significant difference in ELL student achievement in science.

The results revealed that students in sheltered ESL science classes achieve at higher levels than those in mainstream classes. While all except two study participants in sheltered science classes met or exceeded proficient as defined by this study (75% or higher), only three study participants in mainstream science classes met or exceeded proficient. An analysis of students’ overall nine weeks grades in biology and physical science revealed that ELLs in a sheltered setting average a 45% higher grade than those in a mainstream setting in biology and a 14% higher grade than those in a mainstream setting in physical science.