“Long-term English Language Learners (ELL)” is a term that describes high school students who, despite at least six years in United States schools, are “stuck” at intermediate levels of English proficiency or below and are at high risk of dropping out. According to the advocacy group Californians Together, 59 percent of the total secondary school ELL population fit this definition and, if trends persist, the numbers will continue to grow. As a result, the School of Education (SoE) at CSUSM is leading a new charge to champion the needs of ELL students in the region and support teachers in helping them meet their academic potential.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition awarded the SoE at CSUSM a $1.75 million five-year grant to provide a professional development program for high school teachers to effectively teach their ELL students in all subject areas. The project, titled “Leading and Learning: Supporting English Learners with Effective Teacher Preparation and Professional Development,” includes a partnership with the Escondido Union High School District (EUHSD). A major focus will be to help the district’s English learner students, who are predominantly Latino, achieve academic success in college eligible classes, creating a pipeline from high school to college for these “at-risk” students.

“The challenge is that many long-term English Language Learners are placed in mainstream classes taught by teachers whose focus is on the academic content – math, science, language arts or social studies,” said Project Director and CSUSM Associate Professor of Multilingual and Multicultural Education Dr. Annette Daoud. “They don’t necessarily have the tools or skills to meet the needs of these students. They are constrained by time, resources and their own training, which is focused on teaching content rather than language development.”

Currently in the planning stage, the grant will provide funding for stipends to approximately 30 EUHSD teachers each year for four years to participate in professional development. Through a series of workshops and lessons taught by CSUSM SoE faculty and EUHSD personnel, teachers will improve lesson plans and provide practical, hands-on learning on how to build language objectives and literacy skills into and across the curriculum.

Daoud explained that the ultimate goal is to see an increase in the number of ELL students enrolled in college preparation courses, ultimately building the pipeline of qualified applicants to CSUSM or other universities.

“This program is unique because it focuses on English Learners in high school grades, when a lot of educational program development and resources of this nature are usually focused on the elementary school grades,” commented Daoud. “We are really excited to implement the professional development – if we can give useful and meaningful tools to help teachers in the classroom, we have a real chance at closing the achievement gap.”

“The challenge is that many long-term English Language Learners are placed in mainstream classes taught by teachers whose focus is on the academic content – math, science, language arts or social studies,” said Project Director and CSUSM Associate Professor of Multilingual and Multicultural Education Dr. Annette Daoud. “They don’t necessarily have the tools or skills to meet the needs of these students.”