Push-In vs. Pull-Out ESOL Services for Emergent Bilinguals

Low-Incidence Languages

What happens when you do not have enough students who speak the same language at home to provide Dual Language to your Emergent Bilinguals? You have to consider providing students what is known as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services. ESOL services may be Pull-Out or Push-In. Pull-Out services are when designated teachers pull students out of their academic classes to provide intensive English Language Development (ELD) instruction. On the other hand, Push-In services are when designated ESOL teachers co-teach with content area teachers where together, they ensure that both content area and language are taught. This is also known as Content English Language Development.

Which is better? Push-In or Pull-Out ESOL Services?

The research is clear that Push-In services result in higher academic achievement in English than Pull-Out services (Thomas and Collier, 2009 & Causton-Theoharis and Theoharis, 2008) although neither effectively close the opportunity gap. Only, Dual Language Education programs succeed in closing the achievement gap. Please see graph below.


In the above graph, the dashed line represents the average score of monolingual, English speakers on standardized English Language Arts exams. The colored lines represent the average scores of students in various Emergent Bilingual programs. The space between the colored lines and the dashed line is the opportunity gap. As noted on the graph, the opportunity gap becomes smaller for students in Push-In programs (Content ELD) than in Pull-Out services (Pull Out ESL). Yet only the top two programs, Two-Way and One-Way Dual Language Education, effectively close the opportunity gap.

Push-In ESOL services have numerous benefits compared to Pull-Out ESOL services. The following list, though not exhaustive, provides some of these benefits:

  1. Emergent Bilingual students receive access to grade level content and instruction. By consistently removing students from their classrooms, students lose time with grade level content. Hence, in Pull-Out settings, as students receive English instruction, they fall behind in content (Collier and Thomas, 2004).
  2. Emergent Bilingual students receiving Push-In services feel a greater sense of belonging and achievement (Frattura & Capper, 2007).
  3. Teachers in mainstream classrooms can learn strategies from ESOL teachers during Push In services; therefore, when the mainstream teacher is the only teacher in the room, they can continue using these strategies and thus, continue servicing the student (Dove & Honigsfeld, 2010).
  4. Push-In services decrease isolation amongst teachers, allowing them to problem solve together on behalf of their students (Dove & Honigsfeld, 2010).

What do Teachers Need to Make Push-In Services Work?

  1. Planning Time – Teachers must collaborate with each other. Because of limited planning at most schools, creative collaboration is important. It may involve sharing lesson plans over email. The more time teachers can be provided for collaboration, the better the quality of the Push-In services will be.
  2. Understanding – Teachers new to Push-In support may struggle with the concept of Push-In and resist. These teachers may prefer Pull-Out services due to the independence afforded by Pull-Out services and the fear of being judged by their colleagues during Push-In services. Time must be given for these teachers to come on board.
  3. Acceptance of ESOL Teachers – The classroom teacher needs to understand that the ESOL teacher is an equal partner in their Emergent Bilingual students’ education and in the classroom. ESOL teachers should have access to all instructional supplies, seen as a resource, and not be relegated to an “assistant” in the classroom.

Stages of Teacher Collaboration

So you’ve started Push-In services at your school, but the teachers aren’t on board yet. Now what? Don’t give up. Davidson (2006) identifies five stages of increasing effectiveness in teacher collaboration:

  1. Pseudocompliance or passive resistance (Teachers still desire characteristics of Pull-Out
    programs)
  2. Compliance (Good intention)
  3. Accommodation (Begin to try it out willingly)
  4. Convergence (Teachers learn from each other)
  5. Creative Co-construction (Authentic, genuine partnerships)

Given enough time and support, teachers will eventually get to the fifth stage.

But We Are Still Not Closing the Opportunity Gap

The research is clear that while Push-In services are better than Pull-Out services, only Dual Language Education programs can close the opportunity gap. If you have enough students who speak the same home language, you should not be relying on Push-In services and instead, start a Dual Language Education program. If the language is a low-incidence at your school or district, collaborate with the parents to find ways to grow the Emergent Bilingual’s linguistic repertoire outside of school hours. The stronger the student becomes in the home language, the greater the chances are that you will be able to close the opportunity gap for your student.

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