LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has earned a grant to improve education for students learning English by producing more Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL, endorsed teachers. The grant will benefit teachers currently working in Topeka Public Schools, paraeducators with Topeka Public Schools and KU students seeking to add an ESOL endorsement to their teaching license upon graduating.
The Office of English Language Acquisition and the U.S. Department of Education made the five-year, $1.6 million grant to the Institute for Educational Research and Public Service at KU’s School of Education to create Project TELK, or Teaching English Learners in Kansas. The grant will help KU produce more well-rounded teachers who can meet the demands of changing student demographics.
“The goal is not to make more ESOL teachers,” said Stephanie Christenot, project coordinator at the Institute. “We want to help equip content-area teachers who have English learners in their classrooms. Teachers should feel prepared to address the educational needs of all their students, including students learning English.”
KU will work with teachers in Topeka Public Schools to earn their ESOL endorsement. The teachers will take one online course per semester while continuing to work full-time. They will receive a total of 18 hours of instruction. The first of three cohorts will complete their endorsements by spring 2014.
Topeka Public School teachers completing their endorsement will be taught by KU School of Education faculty. The faculty members will teach live classes, which will be recorded and saved to a server. Topeka teachers will be able to log in each week to view lectures, receive assignments and complete their coursework.
The grant has a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields. By helping teachers in those fields become endorsed, they will be able to teach students learning English along with their native English-speaking peers, helping reduce the amount of time English learners are pulled out of class for ESOL-specific instruction.
KU will also provide coaching and mentoring for the teachers earning their endorsements. The mentors will be recruited by KU and will work directly with the teachers to help them implement the lessons and strategies they learn in their TESOL classes.
The TELK program will deliver professional development to paraeducators who work with English learners in Topeka Public Schools. Over the life of the grant inservices specifically designed for paraeducators will take place each fall and spring.
Current KU students will also benefit from Project TELK. Students who take part in the program will receive financial support to complete their ESOL endorsement along with their coursework.
“We want students to graduate with their ESOL endorsements,” Christenot said. “They will be more well-rounded teachers in the sense that they’ll be prepared to teach English language learners, who are the fastest-growing segment in Kansas schools.”
Project TELK will evaluate which schools the graduates go to work for throughout the state and nation. The hope is that they will take jobs in school districts with high numbers of English language learners.