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Focus on Learning

UH-Clear Lake receives $2.5 million in funding to address critical need

From the Office of Communications at University of Houston-Clear Lake

August 1, 2007

University of Houston Clear Lake’s School of Education, recipient of two grants totaling $2.5 million, will team with school districts in four counties to embark on a comprehensive, five-year plan to address a growing concern in area schools — the shortage of teachers and bilingual counselors trained to work with students who lack English language skills.

“These grants provide our School of Education the opportunity to make a significant impact on one of the most daunting challenges facing education today - meeting the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students,” School of Education Dean Dennis Spuck said.

Seeking a wide-ranging approach to bridge the growing gap between English-speaking students and English language learners, the U.S. Department of Education through its National Professional Development Program awarded $1,255,824 to UH-Clear Lake ’s Collaborative Teaching of English Language Learners (CTELL) program, and $1,325,762 to its Collaborative Bilingual Counselors Training Project III (CBCT-3). Both grants are funded for five years.

“There was a 49.5 percent growth in the enrollment of English language learners in Texas schools between 1994 and 2004, yet only 5 percent of teachers in our local school districts have received training to work effectively with these students,” CTELL Co-Director Judith Marquez said. “We realized that all classroom teachers need the training — not just a few.”

“CTELL starts with our university faculty,”CTELL Co-Director Laurie Weaver explained. “We’ll provide workshops for 60 professors to become knowledgeable in the methods and skills required to work with these students. The faculty, in turn, will incorporate that training into the courses they teach. We’ll reach as many as 250 new teachers each year — over a thousand by the project’s end.”

In addition to the university faculty, 100 classroom teachers will be recruited to receive the training. It is estimated that using this approach can directly impact more than 12,000 students during the five-year period.

An equally pressing concern among educators is the significantly high dropout rate among urban Hispanic students — as high as 47 percent. These statistics are accompanied by high unemployment rates, growing teen pregnancy rates, and a significant number of children identified as economically disadvantaged.

The major focus of the CBCT-3 program is to prepare and place 30 qualified bilingual school counselors in area schools to expressly address the needs of Hispanic English language learners and their families. In addition, CBCT-3 will train four bilingual school counselors at the doctoral level to become program supervisors, university instructors and field evaluators in order to effectively implement counseling programs for English language learners.

“We need more bilingual counselors so students and their parents can feel comfortable with someone to talk to in their native language,” Director of CBCT-3 Cheryl Sawyer explains.

“Counselors support English language learners by providing opportunities for children to learn the value of education as well as ways to cope with the influence of negativity, poverty, drugs, gangs and abusive situations. They help parents understand the resources available to help English language learners succeed in the school setting, access options available for financial support for vocational and higher education, and learn to access social services that can accommodate the mental health needs of a family.”

UH-Clear Lake is teamed with schools in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston and Harris counties to implement these grants. CTELL is partnered with Alvin, Clear Creek, Deer Park, Pasadena and Texas City Independent School Districts , while CBCT-3 is teamed with Angleton, Brazosport, Columbia-Brazoria, Danbury, Dickinson, Fort Bend, Galveston, Hitchcock, La Marque, Pearland and Santa Fe Independent School Districts.

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