Partnership helps minority students

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer
April 15th, 2014


MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE — Central School District Superintendent Buzz Brazeau has already seen a difference in English Language Development students since partnering with Western Oregon University last year.

Last year’s mid-year data showed 60 percent of ELD students hadn’t progressed in their comprehension of the English language, while 35 percent had increased their knowledge by one level.

“This year it’s flipped,” Brazeau said, “so that’s a significant change.”

Only 28 percent of students haven’t moved on this year, while more than 60 percent have, he said.

It’s part of the change of thinking about how to educate students whose first language is not English, and was started through a partnership with WOU.

With the help of a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education, WOU and CSD will continue work on culturally responsive teaching, contextual learning and community involvement.

The money will be used to support Project High Five — Culture, Collaboration, Commitment, Communication and Community.

Contextualized learning ended the practice of pulling out groups of ELD students from the classroom to work on English acquisition, Brazeau said.

“This research-based approach … anchors the learning of English to content that is already part of the students’ academic day,” said Chloë Hughes, associate professor of teacher education and co-director of the grant.

Brazeau said the initial numbers, collected for the last two years, are exciting.

Another goal of the project is increasing cultural sensitivity, said Christina Reagle, coordinator of WOU’s Teaching Research Institute Center on Educator Preparation and Effectiveness.

“We will develop a professional development school within Western’s College of Education and Central School District to help teachers across the whole district to be more culturally responsive to their students, so that every student has the best opportunity to learn,” she said.

Reagle said examples are different based on family and community.

For example, in a farm-based community, using examples in teaching math could be more effective if used in a farm-based setting.

The grant will help pay for teacher development and allow student teachers to work alongside more seasoned teachers, Reagle said.

A final component of the project is community service learning, where students, teachers and community can work together.

“If they’re all working together … it helps people see each other in a different way and builds a strength they can bring into the classroom,” Reagle said.

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