The Graduate School of Education and Human Development received a $600,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the math and science aspects of English Language Learner programs in California and New York.
“Math and English are gate keeper courses that are necessary for everyone to succeed,” said Charlene Rivera, executive director of GW’s Center for Equity and Excellence in Education. “The whole goal of this project is to make sure ELL students have the same opportunities as others students. If language is blocking them from making those achievements, that’s something we need to work on.”
The Center for Equity and Excellence in Education received the grant and will conduct a 26-month investigation in collaboration with California and New York state departments of education to identify the academic language necessary for English language learners to succeed in high level math and science classes.
“This is an issue for everyone, it’s a national issue. This is groundbreaking research, and a new way of looking at academic language,” Rivera said. “We’re working with experts, it’s not just an inbred project, and we’re trying to cap the expertise and knowledge base of scholars that have been working with this for a while.”
Mary Futrell, the dean of GSEHD, said California and New York have a high number of students learning English, making them ideal states on which to focus.
“Looking at the issue from a curriculum and professional development perspective, they will be looking to see what else can they do to increase the quality of instruction and ensure that ELLs are being successful in school,” Futrell said.
Upon completion of this project, the results will be shared with other state Departments of Education and will be posted online.
Futrell said the findings of the study will be useful to GSEHD’s work in schools in the D.C. area. GW works with teachers in 11 area school districts to help them better instruct students who do not speak English as their first language.
“The information from this project will help us to understand how to prefect the programs we already have throughout the area so that they can also learn from the experiences in New York and California,” Futrell said.
“The Center for Equity and Excellence in Education has a long record of experience with ELL programs and we are excited to support their research projects,” said Eli Yim, a spokesman for the Bill & Miranda Gates Foundation. “More importantly, we are excited to provide new findings regarding the math and science language used at the middle school and high school levels, which we can then use to inform others in the field.”