The University of Northern Colorado has won a $364,635 grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education to train teachers of students with limited English to build the language skills they need to succeed in school.
The project will work with 42 teachers in Greeley-Evans School District 6 and five eastern Colorado school districts.
The training will distinguish between conversational English that children learn quickly and academic English that involves more complex thought processes. Teachers will learn to combine language skills with content instruction. For example, a lesson on fractions might include terms and definitions, along with explanations of how fractions work, and require students to explain how they solved problems using appropriate language. Teachers also will learn to provide special education services for students of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Teachers from any content area can participate.
"Although the project focuses on linguistically diverse students, the strategies proven to be effective for English-language learners are often effective with all students, giving the project broader impact," said project director Jingzi "Ginny" Huang, UNC associate dean and director of the School of Teacher Education.
Teachers will take four courses and receive on-site and online coaching, mentoring, and consulting to reinforce practical applications of material taught in the courses. Courses will be taught at UNC's main campus in Greeley with online options available for the rural schools in East Central BOCES that have expressed a need for such a program. The courses will prepare participants for the state's English Language Arts specialist certificate and equip them to comply with the new Colorado English Language Proficiency Standards, which promote the marriage of language and content instruction. UNC's new Education Innovation Institute assisted with the grant proposal and will serve as the external evaluator.
The grant is funded by the 2011-2012 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Improving Teacher Quality, Title II, Part A federal grant administered by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The funding period runs through Dec. 31, 2012, but the partnerships will extend beyond the term of the grant. For example, teachers who complete the project will be encouraged to continue their growth by pursuing a master's degree or a more specialized endorsement from the state.
The project represents a collaboration of UNC's College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In addition to Huang, faculty and staff contributing to the project are: Harvey Rude, co-project director and professor of Special Education; Dana Walker, associate professor of Linguistically Diverse Education; Margaret Berg, assistant professor of Linguistically Diverse Education; Corey Pierce, assistant professor of Special Education; Deborah Romero, associate director of faculty development at the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning; Jennifer Urbach, assistant professor of Special Education; and Kristin Klopfenstein, executive director of the Education Innovation Institute.