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Project, grant will help English learners in multiple subjects
Joshua Knopp / Staff Writer
UNT is using an about $985,000 grant from the Department of Education to instruct teachers how they can help English language learners with math and science classes.
The initiative, called Project NEXUS, consists of a series of professional development workshops that will run through 2017. Though the workshops only began recently, project director Rossana Boyd said the process goes back to July. About 200 teachers and 22 administrators will receive training from the program.
“We have to set up the project,” she said. “We have to hire people. We have to schedule the trainings and buy the books.”
Boyd said a large gap exists between English language learners and native English speakers in math and science grades on standardized tests. According to the Texas Education Agency, 16.8 percent of Texas students have limited English proficiency.
UNT is one of 101 schools that received grants to spread teaching strategies to correct this gap.
Staff at Teach North Texas, the university’s education branch dedicated to secondary school math and science teachers, have received training, but UNT students preparing to become teachers won’t receive training until May, said the project’s co-principal investigator Karthigeyan Subramaniam.
“This is the first year of the grant,” he said. “The next following year, we’re going to push it through the cycle.”
However, the university has already used the grant to help current teachers in the Denton and Lewisville independent school districts. Four teachers each from five schools in each district have received professional development training funded by Project NEXUS.
Gina LeClaire, who teaches ninth grade algebra at Denton High School, said the workshops have helped her better understand the process of learning a language.
“The workshop teaches you different levels that the students are at in learning the language, so you make sure you’re not moving past where the students are at,” she said. “It’s almost like I’m not just the math teacher, I’m also the language teacher, because I can see their progress throughout.”
Originally from Honduras, director Boyd said helping English learners in school was particularly meaningful to her because she knew what it was like to go to a school that spoke a different language.
“It means a lot to me because I have a clear understanding of what children go through,” she said. “They have to learn the English language and content of different subject areas at the same time. That is why bilingual education is important.”
Boyd said the program helps students not fall behind in learning English.
“It allows students to continue learning conceptual knowledge and skills in their native language.”