The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is awarding $20 million in grant funding to higher education institutions and other organizations that train teachers to work with English language learners, and the 42 grants being distributed will serve almost 1,800 pre-service teachers and more than 9,700 educators already working in classrooms, according to a press release.
The grants are through the National Professional Development program, part of the department’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), and the funds can be used to train teachers as well as administrators, paraprofessionals and others who work with ELLs.
In a statement, José A.Viana, OELA assistant deputy secretary, said, “Our English learner students represent an incredible asset for our country, yet they also face unique challenges. We need to keep shining the spotlight on them and building our capacity to better serve and teach them.”
Roughly 10% of all public school students are ELs, according to ED data. But at the state level, percentages vary significantly, from about 1% in West Virginia to over 22% in California. In Missouri, for example, the newly announced grants will be used to help 120 teachers in three school districts, including St. Louis Public Schools, to earn certification from Webster University in teaching English learners, according to St. Louis Public Radio.
Another grantee, the Department of Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University's Simmons School of Education and Human Development, will use the funds to train future EL teachers who will learn on site in Dallas schools. In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Paige Ware, who chairs the department, said the teacher education students will not only learn how to provide better instruction for EL students, but also how to better communicate with parents. The training, which will reach over 200 graduate-level students in five years, will be part of a research study to better understand the benefits of learning in a community setting.
"I’m glad to see that educators of English learners will have support to continue to build their capacity to serve this audience. These are students and educators with critical learning needs," Stephanie Hirsh, the executive director of Learning Forward, said about the grants. But she added that she hopes the recognition of the department and the administration "of the need for ongoing educator support under this program ultimately extends to Title II, which had been cut from President Trump’s proposed budget."