The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded faculty from the Bilingual Program in the Department of Educational Psychology and the Educational Administration Program in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development two five-year grants totaling $5.5 million. The grants will fund teacher professional development for educators working with English language learners (ELLs) and to research its effects.
The first project—Empowering Teachers of English Language Learners (ETELL)—will feature online professional development (PD) courses as well as virtual coaching and mentoring for bilingual education and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in school districts across Texas. Dr. Rafael Lara-Alecio, Regents Professor and Director of the Center of Research and Development in Dual Language and Literacy Acquisition (CRDLLA), heads the project as Principal Investigator (PI), and Dr. Beverly Irby, Director of the Education Leadership Research Center (ELRC) and Co-Director of CRDLLA, and Dr. Fuhui Tong, Associate Director of CRDLLA, serve as Co-PIs.
“Researchers have demonstrated that teachers’ instructional practices can be improved through professional development, so it is crucial to provide educators working with ELLs with effective PD programs targeted to those specific skills,” Lara-Alecio said.
Irby also commented, “A critical component of this grant is the fact that the in-service bilingual/ESL teachers will be from a broad expanse across Texas; therefore, virtual mentoring and coaching, what we have developed and researched as VMC, provides an inside real-time view of the classroom with just-in-time feedback—on the spot—to improve instruction.”
“The professional development we will provide will also be virtual. We have proven over a 15-year period that this approach that we have developed and researched across Texas school districts is effective in improving the instructional capacity of teachers and in aiding them in gaining state certification in bilingual/ESL education,” added Tong.
The second project is under the leadership of Dr. Hector Rivera, assistant professor of bilingual education in the Department of Educational Psychology. Eco-Resilience NPD is designed to provide targeted PD for teachers, school principals, and other school leaders, and for capacity-building activities with families, students, and local community organizations. Rivera’s co-PIs include Drs. Tong, Irby, and Lara-Alecio.
“This project addresses the need to assist families in how to support their children in school. It also provides much-needed PD on how to develop school/community support systems for schools serving English language learners in the Dallas Metroplex area. The entire project is centered in a type of ecosystem, with the learner at the center, which builds a resilient student, family, teacher, leader, school and community—together,” explained Rivera.
Irby indicated, “Without such symbiotic, systemic change as will occur in this project and without leaders’ support, schools cannot produce the optimum resilience needed for the success of its teachers and students.”
“Serving our in-service bilingual and ESL educational personnel across Texas, via quality PD, identifies Texas A&M University with its commitment to serve Texas’ citizens as a land-grant institution,” added Lara-Alecio.