BEND, OR -- A new grant will allow up to 80 Oregon teachers in five districts, including Bend-La Pine Schools, to receive more training in working with students who don’t speak English proficiently. The $2.5-million grant was awarded to Oregon State University’s College of Education.
Assistant Professor Karen Thompson says many students considered “English Learners” are taught by less qualified educators. "Unfortunately, in some cases, less experienced, newer teachers are sometimes assigned to work with English Learners. We’ve had experiences at OSU of brand-newly licensed teachers who are hired by districts to serve as EL specialists. And, that’s a really challenging job for someone who hasn’t been a classroom teacher before." She tells KBND News, "There are many teachers all across Oregon who are teaching English learners in their second grade class, or in their high school science class, who just didn’t have an opportunity during their pre-teacher education program to have very much coursework focused on English Learners."
In Bend-La Pine Schools, about 5% of kindergarten through 12th graders are English Learner students; statewide, that number grows to about 10%. Thompson says connecting with these students is important for every type of educator. "Let’s say you’re a high school science teacher who is teaching in English, it’s to your advantage to know some strategies that could help make that science content accessible and meaningful for all the kids in your class so you don’t have kids who are tuning out because they have no way to – no hooks to grab onto to learn."
Online courses begin this summer for select teachers in Bend-La Pine, Beaverton, Springfield, Greater Albany and Corvallis schools, aimed at improving achievement goals for EL students. The five districts currently work with OSU’s College of Education. Thompson says changes may be seen in district classrooms as soon as this fall.