SALISBURY, MD---Imagine sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher-and having little or no understanding as to what is being taught. For more than 1,000 public school children on the Eastern Shore, this scenario is very real.
The U.S. Department of Education classifies these students as “limited English proficient” (LEP), and their ranks are rising on the Shore, up 175 percent in the past decade. For most, English is not their first language. Many have immigrated to the area as the result of a decade-long boom in Hispanic and Haitian populations on the Delmarva Peninsula.
More than 1,000 LEP students exist in more than 100 schools throughout the Shore. Some 70 percent are in elementary grades, where basic skills are taught. In the era of the No Child Left Behind Act, many English-speaking teachers find themselves struggling to give these children the extra attention they need.
At Salisbury University, however, they soon will have the chance to catch up, thanks to a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. Authored by Dr. Anjali Pandey in SU’s English Department, the grant funds a new program that will enhance the “English as a second language” (ESOL) skills of teachers throughout the Shore.
The program follows SU’s recent five-year grant-funded Accelerated Career Enhancement (ACE) master’s program in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL), also authored by Pandey. At the conclusion of the program, a survey sent to some 1,600 teachers throughout the Shore showed interest in two types of programs-those allowing teachers with TESOL experience to further enhance their skills in a non-degree program and those that would allow teachers to earn post-baccalaureate certificates. The TARGET Program will cater to both, Pandey said.
Chosen from more than 400 grant proposals nationwide, the “Training and Retraining Grades K-12 Eastern Shore Teachers” (TARGET) Program is two-tiered. The first cohort, “Academic Career Choices Ensuring Student Success” (ACCESS), includes five graduate courses designed for an accelerated post-baccalaureate certificate. The second, “Enhancing Newcomer Competencies On Required Education” (ENCORE), is a five-course summer program on enhancing LEP academic performance in speaking, writing, reading and listening in multiple subjects.
“The TARGET model aims to provide a nurturing and nurtured workforce,” Pandey said, adding it “promotes the retention of existing classroom teachers under the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Course training is offered in longer blocks of time, allowing more intense continuous study, which Pandey hopes eventually will lead to the creation of flexible LEP experts on the Shore.