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Campus receives $1.6 million U.S. Department of Education grant

10/12/2011 —

Penn State Lehigh Valley has received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help prepare local K-12 math and science teachers to work with English language learners (ELLs). With over 400 proposals submitted, Penn State Lehigh Valley ranked seventh in overall funding out of the 42 total programs funded across the country.


The 2011 report from the Pennsylvania State Data Center showed an 82.6 percent increase in the last decade of the state's Hispanic population. The Lehigh Valley saw the second largest increase overall with 18.8 percent of Lehigh County’s total population of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, representing a 105.8 percent change since 2000. The influx of ELLs has had a tremendous impact on area schools. For example, the Allentown School District has an overall ELL population of 12.5 percent, and many of the schools have populations with significant numbers of ELLs. These shifting demographics have also had an impact on some smaller school districts in the Lehigh Valley that have had limited exposure to working with the ELLs who are now entering their schools.


The newly-funded program, Collaborative Teaching for English Language Learners (CTELL), is designed to address the critical need to prepare content-area teachers, particularly in the STEM fields of math and science, to work with ELLs and prepare them for academic learning and success. The program consists of a comprehensive year-long professional development curriculum that includes a collaborative teaching component in which content teachers partner with English as a second language (ESL) teachers to gain a better understanding of how to meet ELLs' instructional needs.


"The professional development preparation for mainstream classroom teachers, and in particular STEM subject teachers, has been a topic of concern for the last decade. These partnerships will allow educators to conduct collaborative action research within the classroom setting and to simultaneously evaluate the effectiveness of instructional strategies," said Mary Hutchinson, assistant professor of ESL education at Penn State Lehigh Valley and one of the CTELL program coordinators.


The campus, along with the Lehigh Valley Writing Project (LVWP), will work with Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit and Colonial Intermediate Unit to identify teachers to participate in CTELL. After completing a five-course, 15 credit series offered in hybridized format, the teachers will obtain the Pennsylvania ESL endorsement and will have developed and implemented a variety of strategies for working with ESL teachers and ELLs in math and science.


Hutchinson and her partners in this grant are no strangers to developing successful programs that address the growing needs of teachers of ELLs. The LVWP, in particular, is a significant resource for these grant initiatives. “As a professional development network, the LVWP has enabled educators to further their knowledge about second language acquisition, the teaching of writing, and the cultures of the populations they serve throughout the Lehigh Valley and Poconos,” said Nancy Coco, director of Continuing Education. In fact, the CTELL program builds and expands on a previous $1.3 million national grant received in 2007 to implement the Modular Design for English Language Learners Instruction Program (MODELL).


"Among the program's achievements are that it has grown from serving two school districts to six as well as a dual language charter school, and 125 in-service and pre-service teachers have graduated. One hundred percent of in-service completers have shown an increase in the presence of appropriate teaching strategies. The success of MODELL has poised us to make even greater strides with the CTELL program," said Hutchinson.

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