Leading inclusive ell: Social justice leadership for english language learners

George Theoharis, Joanne O'Toole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Purpose: This article attempts to build a better understanding of the leadership necessary to create socially just schools for English language learners (ELLs) by addressing these questions: In what ways do principals create asset-based, collaborative, and inclusive learning opportunities and services for ELLs? What do varying approaches of these services and the leadership necessary look like in practice? Research Design: This article reports on the instrumental case studies of two urban elementary schools and the principals involved in school reform that resulted in inclusive ELL services.Findings: The first principal led her school to adopt a dual certification approach, where the staff engaged in professional development around ELL.They combined federal, state, and local resources to eliminate pullout ELL programs and reduce class size so elementary teachers would take sole responsibility for building community and instructing ELL and all students.The second principal led his school to adopt a coteaching approach where teams of general education and English as a second language (ESL) teachers planned as a team and cotaught all students.They eliminated pullout ELL services and focused on community building, professional development, and collaboration.Student achievement at both schools, and in particular the achievement of ELL students, greatly improved, as did the connection with ELL families.The cross-case analysis provides a comparison between the cases of inclusive ESL reform.Conclusions: The authors propose implications for school leaders that build on the literature, social justice leadership, and the work of the principals, staffs, and communities at the schools from the case studies described here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-688
Number of pages43
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • English language learners
  • inclusion
  • inclusive reform
  • leadership
  • principal
  • social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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