teaching student resting in pile of books

SJSU/SFSU/UCSC Consortium Receives $2 Million Grant for English Language Learners

teaching student resting in pile of books

The National Education Association projects that by 2025 one in four students in the United States will come from homes where a language other than English is spoken.

Submitted by the Connie L. Lurie College of Education

Collaborating education researchers at San Jose State University, San Francisco State University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, have received nearly $2 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education to develop methods of training prospective elementary school teachers how to best teach English to English learners while also teaching grade-level content.

David Whitenack, associate professor in the Department of Elementary Education, is the co-principal investigator at SJSU on the English Language and Literacy Integration in Subject Areas (ELLISA) project, which will be implemented and evaluated in the multiple subject teacher preparation programs at SJSU and San Francisco State. The project is based on using effective teaching practices that integrate the teaching of English language and literacy development with the teaching of science, mathematics, and social studies. Collaborating SJSU faculty, all in the Department of Elementary Education include Assistant Professors Jolynn Asato and Grinell Smith and Associate Professor Patricia Swanson.

A critical issue facing education in the 21st century is to prepare teachers to work with the rapidly increasing population of students with limited English proficiency. The National Education Association projects that by 2025 one in four students in the United States will come from homes where a language other than English is spoken.  Today, California public schools educate more than one-third of the nation’s English learners.

The education of English learners is complex because it involves teaching academic language and literacy to students while also teaching grade-level content such as science, math, and social studies. Studies have shown that English learners can quickly fall behind native speakers in acquiring academic knowledge and language skills.

The $1.97 million grant comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition National Professional Development Program and provides the opportunity to bring together cutting-edge research on teaching school subjects to English learners with best practice in teacher preparation to develop a model that can be used to prepare teachers to effectively teach math, science, and social studies to English learners in California and across the nation. One of the goals of the ELLISA project is to directly redress the chronic underachievement of English learners in content-area courses so as to better prepare them for undergraduate degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

The ELLISA consortium includes two partner school districts in San Jose: Alum Rock Union Elementary and Franklin-McKinley, both of which serve large populations of English learners.

Competition in the 2011 National Professional Development Program was intense with only 42 grant proposals recommended for funding out of 262 applications submitted.