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Transforming Schools for Multilingual Learners

Transforming Schools for Multilingual Learners
A Comprehensive Guide for Educators

2nd Edition

Foreword by Katie Toppel

Additional resources:

February 2023 | 240 pages | Corwin

Essential principles, practices, and structures for multilingual learners

Much has changed in the ten years since this book was first published. A celebrated triumph, it provided state, district, school, and teacher leaders with a comprehensive guide to support multilingual learners to reach their full potential. From selecting the appropriate program model to partnering with families and infusing federal and state laws governing the education of multilingual learners and the rights of their families into all we do, the key messages that made the first edition of this book a renowned success have been re-examined in the second edition with a robust lens to meet these demanding times.

This second edition supports educators to design and enact policies, practices, and structures for multilingual learners (MLs) to feel a sense of safety, belonging, value, and competence.

Topics explored in the book include: 

  • a discussion of the changes to federal and state policies and their impact on MLs and their families
  • strategies to move from a deficit- to an asset-based approach that values multilingualism
  • nine principles to design and deliver high-quality lessons in multiple languages and across disciplines
  • practices to identify and support MLs with learning differences and disabilities
  • steps for building long-lasting family-school partnerships

Reflecting changing trends in leadership, this new edition supports superintendents, principals, curriculum supervisors, coaches, mentors, teachers, and other stakeholders in their collaborative efforts to create and sustain successful language assistance programs.


Chapter 1: Starting with our Students and Ourselves
Chapter 2: Integrating the Regulations and Principles
Chapter 3: Selecting Effective Program Models
Chapter 4: Designing, Implementing, and Strengthening the English Language Development Component
Chapter 5: Addressing the Core Content Component of a Language Education Program
Chapter 6: Emphasizing the Importance of Family Engagement
Chapter 7: Identifying and Working with Multilingual Learners with Learning Differences and Learning Disabilities
Chapter 8: Putting It All Together: Making Data-Drive Decisions to Strengthen the Success of Language Assistance Programs


This newly revised edition of Transforming Schools for Multilingual Learners: A Comprehensive Guide for Educators is a must-have for schools on the journey of creating equitable learning opportunities for all students. In the times of racial injustices, the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and a slew of global and regional crises, it is critically important that all educators hear Debbie Zacarian’s argument and act on her carefully created recommendations for supporting multilingual learners.

Andrea Honigsfeld
Professor and Author, Molloy University

As a nation, we have undergone and continue to experience change in school policies, practices, and programs for multilingual learners. Through myriad real-life vignettes and exemplars, in this updated edition we come to witness how effective language programs can meet the requirements for federal compliance while slowly evolving on the local level to be more inclusive of the voices of educators, students, and families. Zacarian adeptly captures this transformation as she juxtaposes the increasingly important roles of educators as collaborators and advocates for multilingual learners in program planning, delivery, and evaluation against a backdrop of a less than adequate workforce that is not well-informed in understanding the social, cultural, and linguistic assets of these students.

Margo Gottlieb
WIDA Co-founder and Lead Developer. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“The education of multilingual learners requires both a depth and a breadth of knowledge among leaders to ensure that systems are established and resourced to provide equitable opportunities for students and equitable access for families. Transforming Schools for Multilingual Learners: A Comprehensive Guide for Educators provides both the research foundation and the practical application for schools, through the requisite asset-based lens. This framework can assist schools in planning school improvement plans and in their equity, diversity, and inclusion goals. In the end schools can be places where all are welcomed, all are celebrated, and all can achieve.”

Kellie Jones
Brockton Public Schools

Transforming Schools for Multilingual Learners: A Comprehensive Framework for Educators is a must-have resource for school leaders, as well as in-service teachers and preservice teachers, to better understand how to create policies, practices, and programs for MLs to thrive. In this second edition work, Debbie Zacarian provides the latest, detailed information for all educators to better understand the needs of MLs and what to do to support their success. This book should be a staple in everyone’s professional library. 

Maria G. Dove, Ed.D.
Professor, Molloy University, School of Education and Human Services

The second edition of Transforming Schools for Multilingual Learners: A Comprehensive Framework for Educators definitely joins the “short list” of books that all teachers and schools who serve English Language Learners should be reading!

Larry Ferlazzo
High School teacher, Education Week Teacher Advice Columnist, Author

Under the guidance of well-informed and dedicated district leadership, multilinguals can thrive. Dr. Zacarian's second edition addresses the most recent topics in our field while anchored firmly on decades of sound research around what works for multilingual students. The first edition lit the way for many, and this second edition promises to illuminate the path for school leaders committed to the march for educational equity for multilingual students. 

Tan Huynh
Language specialist, author, blogger, podcaster

Debbie’s second edition brings to the forefront of school reform the importance of assets-based approaches to strengthen the success of multilingual learners.  School teams will definitely welcome the ideas, rubrics and strategies for creating effective policies, practices, and structures for transforming schools. 

Margarita Espino Calderón
Professor Emerita at Johns Hopkins University

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ISBN: 9781071884607