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Innovative Education
6Theme-based magnet schools
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The English-language learners (ELL) program at Cedar Rapids Community School District serves over 1,100 students from alternative kindergarten through high school from more than 55 countries. Students in the ELL program speak over 60 languages, with Spanish, Swahili, Kirundi, French, and Nepali as the most common languages.

The ELL program is available in 13 elementary schools and all middle and high schools. Elementary students living outside the attendance area of these sites are bussed to the closest building with the ELL program.

Elementary school students receive ELL services in a small group setting outside of the classroom; middle and high schools use content-based ELL programming. At all ELL sites, students are grouped according to both grade and language proficiency levels. Students receive ELL services daily from an endorsed ELL teacher.


ELL programming

The English language proficiency assessment for the 21st century (ELPA21) dynamic screener is the screening tool used to measure English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Students who score in the emerging or progressing range qualify for English language development services. Students who score in the proficient range do not qualify for ELL services.

The ELPA21 summative is the annual assessment used to measure English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Students who score in the proficient range exit from English language development services.

The CRCSD ELL program uses the following curriculum:

  • Elementary school: REACH, by National Geographic/Cengage
  • Middle school: INSIDE, by National Geographic/Cengage
  • High school: INSIDE and EDGE, by National Geographic/Cengage

All three curriculums are comprehensive literacy programs that focus on the four language domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

As English learners (ELs) make gains in language proficiency, they are expected to attempt more and more academic assignments. They are encouraged to work in what Vygotsky (1983) calls their “zone of proximal development”—just beyond their current language capabilities—and participate in all cooperative learning situations. Classroom teachers modify assignments and differentiate instruction to accommodate those ELs who have not yet achieved full proficiency in English. The ELL teacher and the classroom/content teacher work as a team in order to support the English language development of each student.

Extra support is offered to students who are brand new to English. These students may receive ELL services twice a day at the elementary level. Beginning, intermediate, and advanced ELs receive at least one 30-40 minute elementary group time. Secondary ELs have at least one ELL class every day. The high schools also offer a newcomers program for high school students who are new to English.

In our efforts toward continuous improvement, CRCSD acknowledges the research on academic success for ELL students learning in co-taught classrooms (content area teacher along with ELL teacher). Current middle and high school classes include co-taught math, co-taught science, co-taught social studies, and co-taught English/language arts.

ELL history

Elementary schools
1979: Squaw Creek (school now closed)
1983: Cleveland
2003: Hiawatha
2005: Grant Wood (program discontinued in 2012)
2006: Kenwood
2007: Hoover
2008: Van Buren
2017: Wright
2019: Arthur
2019: Coolidge (West Willow as of 2021)
2019: Erskine
2019: Garfield
2019: Grant
2019: Nixon
2019: Cedar River Academy at Taylor
2021: West Willow

Middle schools
1983: Roosevelt
2009: McKinley (program moved 2012, reopened 2019)
2012: Harding
2019: Wilson
2021: Franklin
2021: Taft

High schools
1979: Washington (program moved 2014, reopened 2017)
2012: Jefferson
2014: Kennedy
2020: Metro


Key contacts

Emily Gotto

AK-5 English Learner Program Lead

Andrew Trout

6-12 English Learner Program Lead