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Contact: Christina Chapple
|SLU’S PROJECT TEACH WILL TRAIN ESL TEACHERS
HAMMOND -- Southeastern Louisiana
University has received a $1.2 million federal grant for “Project Teach,”
a five-year program to improve and increase the number of teachers qualified
to work with students who speak limited English.
The U.S. Department of Education
grant initially will impact 600 teachers and 1,000 limited English proficient
(LEP) students in schools in Livingston, East Baton Rouge and Lafayette
Parishes, said Project Director Rossana Boyd, coordinator of the English
as a Second Language (ESL) and Internet Alternative Certification programs
in Southeastern’s College of Education and Human Development.
Additional parishes may be added
as grant partners in the future, Boyd said.
Boyd said that $577,500, more
than half of the Project Teach grant funds, will go directly to teachers
as stipends ranging from $200 to $1,600 for tuition, fees, textbooks, software
and ESL instructional material. The grant will also pay for teachers’ substitutes
when training sessions take them away from the classroom.
Southeastern is the only Louisiana
university, and one of only a handful nationwide, that offers add-on ESL
certification entirely on the Internet.
During each of the grant’s five
years, 90 teachers will receive two days of ESL training in the fall with
follow-up sessions in the spring. The teachers will be networked by a Southeastern
ESL listserv that will keep them informed about ESL issues and resources.
Also each year, 20 pre-service
and in-service teachers will complete the four Southeastern Internet courses
(12 credit hours) leading to ESL add-on certification, and 10 master teachers
will be given the option to either earn the add-on certification or complete
12 credit hours toward a
master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with ESL emphasis.
Teachers will also participate
in summer follow-up workshops and have the opportunity
to attend state and national conferences.
Boyd said Southeastern’s ESL
certification courses and the Project Teach training will
provide teachers with effective instructional and assessment strategies
and ways to adapt lessons so that LEP students can comprehend the material.
"LEP students learn fast, but
they are often overwhelmed at first," Boyd said. "Teachers will learn
how to use visuals and hands-on activities that help students connect concepts
Southeastern has offered ESL
certification, which is added to a teacher’s basic certificate in elementary
or secondary education, since 1992, said Martha Thornhill, interim dean
of the College of Education and Human Development. For the past two years,
the program has been offered online, allowing mainstream teachers who serve
LEP students to use their classrooms for field experiences.
“Project Teach will make a significant
impact on the teachers who deliver the instruction and the students who
need it,” Thornhill said. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with
our partner parishes.”
Boyd said Louisiana is home to
approximately 7,000 LEP students of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
Around 2,000 of those students, representing 40 different languages, live
in the southeast Louisiana parishes surrounding Southeastern.
“Some students arrive from war-torn
countries, while others come from stable, well-educated households,” Boyd
said. “Some are literate in their native language and have some proficiency
in English while others are totally pre-literate in English. These factors
challenge teachers on a daily basis because they need to feel better prepared
to address the needs of the LEP students.”
She said East Baton Rouge Parish
public schools have approximately 1,400 LEP students. The parish houses
a refugee resettlement center with an increasing number of students from
countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Yugoslavia and
Somalia. Lafayette Parish, with more than 400 LEP students, also has a
refugee resettlement center. Also, the parish’s ESL middle school program
has been moved to a new site where teachers have no ESL training.
Boyd said Livingston Parish reported
60 LEP students in 2001-2002, a number that has increased 70 percent over
the last two years. The students, she said, are served by one itinerant
ESL teacher and two paraprofessionals.
Boyd said the ESL training for
the four parishes’ teachers will help LEP students succeed on crucial Louisiana
Education Accountability Program (LEAP 21) tests.
“LEP students are required to
take and pass the LEAP 21 test after only one year in the United States,”
Boyd said. “In general, if students fail the test, they are allowed to
take the test one more time. If they fail after the second attempt, they
are retained. Failure doesn’t help address the problem.”
LEAP tests are challenging to
the LEP students “because they are expected to acquire English language
and core content area skills at the same time they are adjusting to a new
culture,” Boyd said. “It is also challenging for teachers because they
are required to prepare students to demonstrate competency.
“It takes one to two years for
students to acquire a social language,” Boyd said, “but it takes five to
seven years to acquire the academic language they need to be on par with
English speaking peers.”
“Project Teach will benefit the
teachers in these parishes, but, ultimately, it is the children who will
benefit,” Boyd said.
Participating schools are Livingston
Parish’s East Side Elementary, French Settlement Elementary, Holden Elementary,
Louis Vincent Elementary and Maurepas School; East Baton Rouge’s LaBelle
Aire Elementary, Park Forest Elementary, Park Forest Middle, and Kenilworth
Middle and Lafayette Parish’s Broadmoor Elementary, Edgar Martin Middle
and Lafayette High School.
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