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$1.3 million grant to U-M­Dearborn to help prepare teachers for non-English speaking students

A five-year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to U-M—Dearborn (U-M­D) will help local public schools respond to the needs of students who have limited proficiency in English.

In Dearborn, the seventh largest school district in Michigan, more than half of the students are Arab or Arab American, and nearly a third of the students are not native English speakers. Many of those students are recent immigrants with interruptions in their schooling.

"This program is designed to provide an effective program of professional development for teachers that will multiply Dearborn's capacity to educate this population," says John Poster, dean of the School of Education at U-M—D.

The University will collaborate with Henry Ford Community College (HFCC) and the Dearborn Public Schools on the program.

"The number of students needing English language help continues to increase from year to year, thus increasing the need for more qualified staff having specialized techniques and credentials," says Cheryl Kreger, director of special services for Dearborn Public Schools. "Enough teachers with this specialized training simply are not available."

One of the goals of the project is to provide teacher certification programs for paraprofessionals currently working in the district. "These funds will be used to grow more teachers through a career ladder for paraprofessionals who are already bilingual or multilingual," Poster says.

At least 20 paraprofessionals currently working in the Dearborn schools will be able to earn bachelor's degrees and teacher certification at U-M—D through the program. The community college and U-M­D already have articulation agreements in place so graduates of HFCC will be able to earn bachelor's degrees and teacher certification at U-M—D. HFCC also supports an English Language Institute for students who require acceleration of language skills to achieve at the university level.

"It's a natural blend of our resources to meet the community's need for more and better-qualified teachers," Poster says.

Classes will be offered at times and locations that will allow the participants to hold their current jobs, and the school system won't need to hire substitutes. Everyone who completes the program will be guaranteed teaching positions in Dearborn.

In addition to its work with paraprofessionals, the program also will work to increase the number of currently certified teachers who have a state Department of Education endorsement to teach English as a second language. The U-M—D program will offer 24 credits leading to the endorsement.

"The great majority of Dearborn teachers are talented instructors who began their careers here before later waves of immigration," Poster says. "In this program, 10 of these teachers will acquire new skills to help a changing population, and learn to use their skills in new ways."

U-M—D plans several programs that will help participants complete degree programs, including tailored mentoring programs and outreach services. Among other initiatives, the school plans to develop a course titled "Teaching English as a Second Language to Native Arabic Speakers."

"This course will examine the unique opportunities and obstacles Arabic speakers face in learning English," says Prof. Emily Spinelli, chair of the foreign language programs in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters at U-M—D and project director on the federal grant. She has been a faculty member since 1975, and directs language content instruction for students in the School of Education. Among numerous other professional accomplishments, Spinelli was president of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in 1999.

Co-director of the program will be Martha Adler, assistant professor in the School of Education, who received her doctoral degree in bilingual education.

The total cost of the program is approximately $1.6 million. U-M—D will provide nearly 20 percent of the total cost, or almost $300,000, in tuition scholarships for participants. As a result of the scholarships and the federal grant, there will be no charge for participants in the program.

 

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