The Graduate School of Education and Human Development received a $3 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition to teach bilingual special education to Maryland public school teachers. Now the school is putting that money to good use.
“The majority of universities have not been training their teachers to be prepared to understand second language acquisition,” said Amy Mazur, director of GW’s bilingual special education program. “We are saying we will come to you and see what is really happening in the classrooms. With our support we are starting to make systemic changes in the schools.”
The GSEHD bilingual special education program began 22 years ago. GW is one of seven schools in the nation that offer such a program.
The two grants, the Bridges to Curriculum Access Project and the Communities of Practice Supporting English Language Learners will allow GSEHD to help train more than 150 teachers at five public schools in Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. The grant will provide tuition support for the teachers.
Four-hundred universities applied for the grants from the Department of Education. Between 150 and 170 grants were awarded, said Diana Schneider, education program specialist for the Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition. GW was awarded the greatest sum of money per year out of all of the schools receiving grants.
“The purpose of the grant is that we take teacher training out of the University to the schools, so that teachers can tie theory to practice,” Mazur said. “The programs are addressing the need to train pre-service teachers to meet the continuum of needs of English language learners, including those with exceptionalities such as special education needs.”
The five-year teacher training program aims to work with 18 teachers each year in Doswell Brook Elementary School, Kettering Middle School and Central High School as well as 25 teachers per year in Montgomery Blair High School and Takoma Park High School.
Beginning Oct. 16, GW instructors will go to the schools and offer hands-on, in-class instruction during the day and after school. They will come to Foggy Botton for orienation. Participants will earn a master’s degree or a certificate in bilingual special education.
Prince George’s County and Montgomery County have the highest populations of English language learners in Maryland. In 2000, about 16 percent of Prince George’s County residents and about 32 percent of Montgomery County residents spoke a language other than English at home, according to the federal census. In recent years, Mazur said, these numbers have drastically increased due to gentrification of the District.
“The mission of our education system is to serve all students and meet their needs – regardless of cultural background, linguistic background or special education needs,” said Patty Doran, coordinator for the Bridges to Curriculum Access Project and a program instructor. “It is our belief that all courses should bring skills to teachers that will enable them to be effective in the instruction of ESL students, children with special education needs and those whose needs go across the continuum.”