Grant funds bilingual overhaul
More training to be offered to teachers
By Monte Whaley
Denver Post Education Writer
Thursday, November 14, 2002
A week after a controversial English immersion measure died at the polls,
Colorado launched an unprecedented effort to recruit and train teachers to
better help immigrant children master English.
The state will use a $9.3 million federal grant to overhaul how
English-acquisition programs in elementary and secondary schools are taught.
Colorado will enlist the state's universities and colleges to train new and
veteran teachers in new strategies, as well as supporting low-performing schools
with experts in the field.
In all, schools will be given better tools to prepare non-English-speaking
students for success in American schools, officials said.
This is a more comprehensive approach than in the past, when curriculum for
English language learners (ELL) was fragmented and sometimes not fully supported
by school districts, said Flora Camejos-Lenhart, director of the English
Language Acquisition Unit of the Colorado Department of Education.
"We have teachers who meant well but lacked materials and resources,"
Camejos-Lenhart said. "We worked hard, but we weren't working wisely."
The grant is the first of its kind awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.
It was given to Colorado because of the state's emphasis on forming partnerships
to develop better teachers and to improve student achievement, said Education
Commissioner Bill Moloney.
"People in Washington, D.C., are paying attention to this," he said.
A portion of the money will be used for stipends and scholarships to lure
aspiring teachers into ELL education classrooms, Camejos-Lenhart said. This will
help head off a shortage of qualified teachers, she said.
There are only about 3,200 ELL and bilingual teachers in Colorado, and about
70,000 students struggling to learn English.
"When there are 50 students and one ELL teacher, there is not a lot of learning
going on," Camejos-Lenhart said.
About $2.5 million of the grant will be used at four community colleges and
eight four-year institutions - including the University of Denver, University of
Colorado at Colorado Springs and the University of Northern Colorado - to train
new teachers and to run in-service classes for veteran teachers.
Much of the classroom work will focus on bolstering the linguistic skills of
teachers. That way they'll be able to properly instruct ELL students in subjects
such as math, science and history, she said.
The grant also will pay for comprehensive English assessments for ELL students
and bring direct technical assistance into failing Colorado schools.
This approach jibes with state and federal efforts to improve every child's
academic performance, no matter economic or cultural background, said Randy
DeHoff, president of the State Board of Education.
"Our job is to promote effective instruction and to achieve the same outcomes
for all students," DeHoff said. "This is not only a local goal, it is
embedded in the (federal) No Child Left Behind Act."
Both Republicans and Democrats supported the grant. The unity indicated that the
disagreement over the failed Amendment 31 was over its implementation and not
its goals, officials said.
The measure would have phased out bilingual education in Colorado and forced
non-English-speaking students into
Proponents of the measure said traditional bilingual education courses were
doing a poor job preparing students for academic life in America. Opponents said
it would virtually eliminate school choice in Colorado and hold parents,
teachers and schools open to legal liability for teaching bilingually.
But many school officials agreed bilingual education has its problems.
"For many years, we had programs that did not work, and we stayed with them,"
said Bill de laCruz, chairman of the Action Committee of the Closing the
Achievement Gap Coalition. "And we had programs that did work but were
The grant, however, will help make teachers more effective in ELL
classrooms, de la Cruz said.
"It creates unique partnerships" and relevant professional development for
teachers, he said