Miami University's School of Education and Allied Professions (EAP) has been awarded a five-year $1.5 million grant aimed at helping Ohio's schools address the challenges of teaching students who are learning English as a second language.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition will enhance the preparation of teachers who work with English language learners in mainstream classrooms throughout the state.
Grant recipients include Kouider Mokhtari, professor of teacher education at Miami, Carine Feyten, EAP dean, and Joyce Nutta, associate professor of foreign language education and English at the University of South Florida.
"Dr. Nutta has been working with higher education faculty to integrate English for speakers of other languages into their courses since 1997 and her expertise was critical to Miami receiving this grant," Feyten said.
The overall goal is to improve the preparation of teachers who work with English language learners, said Mokhtari, principal investigator. "Enhanced teacher preparation will, in turn, improve the academic success of students at risk for school failure due to poverty, limited English proficiency and/or other life challenges," he said.
The rapidly increasing number of English language learners (ELLs) requires rethinking teacher education, said Feyten, adding that the situation is not limited to states such as California, Texas and Florida.
Ohio has seen increases in ELLs in both rural and urban school systems. According to the National Center for English Language Acquisition, Ohio's overall K-12 students decreased about 6 percent between 1995 and 2005, but during that same decade the ELL population increased by more than 108 percent.
Educators throughout the country are realizing that responsibility for K-12 English language learners' language development and academic achievement is no longer limited to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) specialists. While the need for mainstream teachers who are qualified to teach English language learners is genuine, "most mainstream teachers have traditionally received little preparation in how to address the needs of such learners. Teacher preparation programs will need to ensure that teachers are indeed prepared to teach and reach all children. And change begins with our teacher education faculty first," Feyten said.
A key objective of this grant project is to develop a model program that can be emulated by other institutions in the state and nation. Such a model program is supported by collaborative partnerships among higher education faculty, public school teachers and state leaders, said Mokhtari.