The Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA) has been studying the characteristics of successful English programs in middle and high schools. This report discusses the findings of the first two years of their 5-year Excellence in English study and focuses on the educational practices that support student literacy as well as the characteristics of teachers' professional lives that accompany student achievement. The report addresses the issue of teachers' professional environments. The study considered in the report examines professional contexts to understand how they relate to what happens in the classroom. The report discusses features of the professional contexts that permeate the diverse sites that CELA has been studying; data were collected at eight schools in Florida and New York. The report notes that a series of site-specific case studies are also being developed to provide in-depth views of particular teachers' professional experiences and how these in turn are related to curriculum, instruction, and assessment in their classrooms. Findings reported suggest common characteristics in teachers' lives schools and districts they teach in nurtured a climate that (1) orchestrated coordinated efforts to improve student achievement; (2) fostered teacher participation in a variety of professional communities; (3) created structured improvement activities in ways that offered teachers a strong sense of agency; (4) valued commitment to the teaching profession; (5) engendered a caring attitude that extended to colleagues and students; and (6) fostered a deep respect for lifelong learning.