About Us

What Is Project ExcEL?

ExcEL has its origins in a committed group of educators who believed we needed to transform our approach to working with English learners. Even in schools and classrooms, where ‘best instructional practices’ were practiced, positive impacts were small and marginal. The program developers believed there was a better way – and that transformative change would only happen when every teacher became a teacher of ELs and had the knowledge and skills to make that a reality.

These ideas were initially moved into practice with the support of a National Professional Development grant in 2007. The EXCELL (Excellence for Connecticut’s English Language Learners) model focused on building the instructional capacity of teachers in four Connecticut districts (New London, Montville, Norwich and Stratford). EXCELL provided comprehensive, job-embedded coaching and professional development to mainstream teachers. Support was delivered in the context of school-based professional learning teams. EXCELL led to demonstrable improvements in teacher competence as well as student outcomes. In several cases English learners outperformed their native English counterparts on state assessments.

The success of this small pilot led to a commitment to model improvement based on the initial funding under the Investing in Innovation (i3) and National Professional Development programs. ExcEL schools are now located in Tarrytown (NY), Ossining (NY) and Shelton (CT). Shelton is also the site of the ExcEL Leadership Academy, designed to be the center for coordination and growth for all ExcEL initiatives.

In addition to the core principles of working with mainstream teachers and facilitating the delivery of coaching and embedded professional development, ExcEL sites added three new elements: a systematic way of tiering students based on progress, similar to an RTI approach; ensuring each EL student is part of a small learning community; and partnering with community agencies and establishments to provide a wider array of supports for students and their families. Critically, ExcEL is the focus of a rigorous research study that is establishing and quantifying the effectiveness and student impact. The research study is funded through the 2020-21 school year, with formative results available on an annual basis. Initial results have indicated positive impacts on both mathematics and ELA state assessments along with increased teacher efficacy.

ExcEL is a program of the UCLA Center X Northeast Region. Years of extensive, nationwide research into the best practices of education have led Center X Northeast to develop a set of fundamental beliefs about educational reform and leadership development around a critical question: How can we surface the beliefs and practices that result in high achievement for all students and build on these beliefs and practices to create a school culture and educational system which ensures high achievement for every child?

Our team of professionals include school/district experienced faculty members and University staff with proven skills and established track records in facilitating and managing large-scale, multi-year, multi-layer school transformations.

For more information contact Dr. Jason Cervone, Project Director, ExcEL Leadership Academy, jcervone@gseis.ucla.edu