Shelton receives grant for English language learners

The city of Shelton has received a grant for $2.4 million to be spread over the next five years in order to accommodate English language (EL) learners within the community.

UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Science (GSEIS) announced that the Exc-EL Leadership Academy has received funding from the National Professional Development (NPD) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). UCLA Professor Dr. Alison Bailey is the principal investigator and UCLA Center X’s Jason Cervone is the project director.

Shelton Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chris Clouet said the grant came as a result of a longstanding professional relationship with the team of Center X.

The partnership with the Shelton public schools in the multi-year project will employ a data-driven, tiered approach to instruction building on community partnerships to create personalized, expanded learning opportunities for students who do not speak English as their first language. The Shelton schools join existing Exc-EL districts in Tarrytown and Ossining, N.Y., expanding the number of school sites from four to 12.

Clouet said he believes all students will benefit from the partnership.

“Helping all students to succeed is central to our mission. We know our EL students are like all young people — full of hope, dreams and potential. This project will help us to nurture that potential more effectively,” said Clouet. “We know that across the country there are concerns for preparing all students for the 21st Century, but there are special considerations involved with teaching English language learners. How to master ‘academic English’ so that they can also tap into their talents and help move our country forward. It’s very key, because people will often say, ‘My parents came from another country and they made it.’ But the challenges that the kids today are facing are quite different. The global nature of the economy puts people in a different competition with a different set of challenges.”

Community partners that are providing support in Shelton include the Plumb Library and the Boys & Girls Club of Shelton. According to Clouet, both the library and Boys & Girls Club will host activities that are designed to engage English learning families.

Teams of educators will be trained in research-based instructional techniques by Exc-EL coaches that have been proven to be effective with English learners. The teams will meet regularly to discuss the students’ progress and explore their strengths and areas where they’re being challenged, with the intent of differentiating instruction and creating effective school- and community-based interventions. The Center for Secondary School Redesign, Exc-EL’s school redesign partner, will provide coaching and support for personalized learning environments.

Clouet said the city is still in the early phases of creating programs to be held by community  partners but they’re not limited to families who have recently immigrated to this country.

“Those skills and the kind of instruction is good for all children, because we’re all technically English language learners. We’re all constantly reading and learning new concepts, regardless if it’s about computers, other technology or agriculture,” said Clouet.

Recognizing that the English learners often deal with life issues well beyond the traditional school day, community partners will provide multiple supports for these students as well as their families to empower students and families to take an active role in learning, as well as in taking leadership roles within the community.

“Overall, this is a great step for Shelton, because it shows we’re being creative and constantly trying to improve the quality of education our students receive,” said Clouet. “We anticipate earning more grant support in the near future.”

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