A College of Education student teaching children in a classroom
"This project has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach pre-kindergarten through 12th grade throughout Illinois." Tom Philion Dean of the College of Education

Roosevelt University has received a $2.4 million federal grant for a new master’s degree program that has the potential to expand teaching in two languages at Chicago-area schools.

Led by Roosevelt’s College of Education, the Illinois Dual Language Teacher Leadership Project (IDLTLP) will prepare 152 of the region’s pre-kindergarten through 12th grade teachers over the next five years for leading classrooms and dual language programs in both English and a second language, typically Spanish.

Five districts are partners with Roosevelt in the initiative:  The Chicago Public Schools, Addison School District 4, Wood Dale School District 7, Schaumburg School District 54 and Community Consolidated School District 59 (CCD59) in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition, the new program intends to build both instructional and leadership capacity in support of dual language programming in the partner districts.

The program will provide scholarship support to educators in partner districts who complete Roosevelt’s Master of Arts degree in Dual Language Teacher Leadership.

Classes in the new program will begin in the summer of 2018 at both the Chicago and Schaumburg campuses. A dual language summer program for students and their parents will be one of the program’s features.

Teachers completing the degree will be evaluated to determine whether the training provided by Roosevelt results in teachers using more practices and strategies aimed at improving educational outcomes for English Learners (ELs). The evaluator for the project is American Institutes For Research (AIR).

To learn more about the program, visit Roosevelt University Dual Language Teacher Leadership Program.  To register for an upcoming informational session about the program sign up here.

“This project has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach pre-kindergarten through 12th grade throughout Illinois,” said Tom Philion, dean of Roosevelt’s College of Education.

“If outcomes/achievement levels are shown to improve, as we believe will occur, this program will be a catalyst for a major shift toward mainstreaming dual language teaching and learning in classrooms,” he said.

A beacon for removing language barriers and reaching across cultures, the IDLTLP is the brainchild of Roosevelt education professors Erin Mackinney and Tammy Oberg De La Garza, who recently conducted the study “Dual Language Instruction and Achievement: A Need and a Void in the Midwest.”

Published in August by the Mid-Western Educational Researcher, the study looked at dual language learning in Illinois, which leads the Midwest with 22 percent of its population speaking a language other than English in the home. The state also has more than 207,000 students who are ELs, the fifth largest population of its kind among U.S. states.

In 2014, the Roosevelt professors contacted all 4,493 public schools in the state’s 494 districts about dual language learning in Illinois. They identified 111 public schools in 21 districts with dual language programs. Twenty schools agreed to participate in a survey on dual language. A majority favored expanding their dual language offerings, but said they faced hurdles in finding qualified teachers.

In CPS, for instance, 20 schools now have dual language programs, and a strategic plan calls for expanding dual language learning to five additional schools annually by 2020.

“We can’t have a global city without the citizens of that city being bilingual, and that means having all of our children speaking more than one language,” said Ernesto Matias, chief of the Office of Language and Culture at CPS.

With that goal in mind, Matias believes the Roosevelt program comes at a pivotal moment. “If we are to achieve the vision of bi-literacy for every CPS student, it will be absolutely paramount to have dual language educators in place.  That’s why this partnership with Roosevelt is so important.”

Meanwhile, dual language learning is also becoming a priority in the suburbs. “We see the Roosevelt program as an opportunity to increase visibility and make even greater strides in dual language teaching and learning,” said Griselda Pirtle, director of multi-language programs at CCD59.

One of Roosevelt’s IDLTLP partners, CCD59 began its dual language program at a single elementary school in 2009. Today, classroom teaching in two languages is available at all 12 of the district’s schools. “The Roosevelt program will allow teachers to network, learn, grow and achieve best practices.”

John Corbett, superintendent of Wood Dale School District 7, believes the Roosevelt program will boost the district’s newly launched dual language program. “We look forward to our teachers participating in the program, but the real advantage will be for our students,” he said. “Native English speakers will be in class with native Spanish speakers – and they will learn how to speak English and Spanish together.”

This is the second major federal grant that Roosevelt’s College of Education has received in the last six months. In June, the college received $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to prepare math, biology and chemistry teachers for careers in high-need urban schools.

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