Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Joseph Check

Second Advisor

Vivian Zamel

Third Advisor

Margaret Adams


Standardized interviews with nine high school ESL teachers in nine Massachusetts high schools were conducted. The study examined current writing practices and teacher beliefs about ELL student capacity to achieve higher-level writing ability in the current high-stakes writing environment in urban public schools. Four major research questions were addressed: (1) How do teachers think about their role as advocates for ELL students? How do their classroom practices respond to the stigmatized position of ELL students? (2) How does ELL teacher advocacy influence how ELL teachers teach writing to ELL students? (3) How do teachers enable the higher-level writing abilities of ELL students in urban secondary public school environments? a (4) How do school leadership, school climate, and statewide mandates affect teacher advocacy stigma? The study assumes that ELL students are a stigmatized population in urban public schools and explores the effect of teaching a stigmatized population on teacher imagination. The study concludes that professional development for high school ESL/ELL teachers, particularly in the area of writing, has not kept pace with the changes caused by federal and state mandates with regard to ELL students. The study concludes that in schools in Massachusetts in this study performing most poorly on state tests, ELL teachers appear to be most isolated and confused about the purpose of instruction. Advocacy for students takes multiple forms, but teachers most involved in obtaining equity for ELL students, in this study, have less knowledge, less contact with professional development in writing, and offer less focused instruction in writing to ELL students. Better writing practices for intermediate and advanced ELL students are found in schools that are making AYP on MCAS, or have too few ELL students to be counted as a subgroup for MCAS. Better writing practices for intermediate to advanced ELL students described by teachers in this study include exposure and practice with: poetry, interviews, reflective pieces, narrative forms, dialogues, short plays as well as summaries and scaffolded essays and research projects.