Just last week, my colleagues (Drs. Kim Song and Sujin Kim of the University of Missouri-St. Louis) and I found out that we were awarded a new National Professional Development Grant. Our project, titled Strengthening Equity and Excellence for Teachers of English Learners (SEE-TEL) is funded by the Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. Over $2.6 million will allow SEE-TEL to more effectively prepare hundreds of inservice teachers, administrators, teacher education faculty, and parents to be responsive to linguistically and culturally diverse K-12 learners. I’m especially excited because our grant activities will emphasize equity and civil rights for immigrant and refugee children from across the most high-need areas of Missouri, a state that is often passed over for seeming monolingual (but it’s not!).
This work is critical to help Missouri meet increasingly complex needs facing our schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Most significant, SEE-TEL will offer seven online TESOL courses and certification to a select group of 50 teachers from four school districts: Bayless (St. Louis area), Carthage (near Joplin), Kansas City Public Schools, and Columbia Public Schools. In addition, SEE-TEL will arrange intensive summer institutes to 120 educators and school leaders from these districts and beyond; training for university faculty members; and partnerships and literacy activities with 160 family members over the five-year grant project. A program evaluation, led by myself and another colleague, Dr. Christine Li-Grining of Loyola University-Chicago, will study the long-term impact of the professional development activities on participants and students.
The growth of immigrant and refugee children is significant across the state, which faces a shortage of teachers for emerging bilinguals (or “English Learners,” ELs) in our K-12 schools. For instance, Kansas City Public Schools currently has 3800 active students in English education support programs and 400-500 who are being monitored. Over the last school year they saw a 180% increase in refugee enrollment. KCPS’s largest language group is Spanish, but second to that is now Swahili, which just moved past Somali. They have multiple job openings right now for teachers in language education (posted on the Missouri Dual Language Network’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/moduallanguage/).
Job openings specific to this grant and more information about our project will be posted soon!