CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s College of Education will provide training for up to 80 Oregon teachers who work with students learning English under a new $2.5 million federal grant.
OSU is partnering with the Beaverton, Bend-La Pine, Springfield, Greater Albany and Corvallis school districts on the five-year project, which is being funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Language Acquisition. The first group of teachers will begin the program this summer.
The goal of the program is to improve educational outcomes for students who do not speak English proficiently when they enter school; these students are considered English learners. English learners face an achievement and opportunity gap that means they are less likely to complete school and go on to higher education, said Karen Thompson, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Education, who is leading the project.
“Research has shown that English learners are typically taught by less qualified, less experienced teachers,” she said. “Teachers are asking for resources to teach English learners more effectively. This program works directly to make sure that teachers have the best possible preparation for working with this group of students.”
The number of English learners in Oregon has grown dramatically over the last 20 years and now makes up about 10 percent of the state’s kindergarten- through 12th-grade population. But most Oregon teachers do not have specialized training or certification to work with English learners. The state only recently began requiring newly-licensed teachers to have some basic competencies for working with these students.
Teachers who participate in the new grant project will have the opportunity to earn either an endorsement for teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or a dual-language specialization for teaching students in two languages, Thompson said.
The grant funding will be used in part to cover teachers’ tuition. Teachers will take courses via Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s online education division. Each district will have a facilitator to provide support and hold in-person discussions with program participants.
The first group will focus on ESOL endorsements. Teachers in the second group, to begin in 2019, will have the option of the ESOL endorsement or the dual-language specialization. The dual-language specialization is under development by OSU faculty and would be among the first such program offered in the state of Oregon.
“As dual-language programs gain popularity across Oregon and elsewhere, we’ve been making a concerted effort to position ourselves as leaders in the effective preparation of dual-language teachers,” Thompson said. “We want to be able to meet the needs of Oregon schools.”
The participating school districts will select teachers for the program based on their specific needs. A district might decide to focus on training middle school teachers, or focus on teachers in a specific school that offers dual-language education, Thompson said.
A team of researchers also will study the effectiveness of the program and the courses throughout the grant period, with the goal of understanding how best to improve student outcomes and prepare more teachers to work with English learners.