Portland State University’s BiSped program recognized among most effective in nation at increasing Latino student success in college

Julie Brown ExcellenciaNational initiative adds to America’s largest inventory of proven practices for accelerating degree completion for the country’s fastest growing minority.

Elected officials and higher education leaders from across the country joined Excelencia in Education at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel in Washington, D.C., on October 2, to honor Portland State University’s Bilingual Special Educator (BiSped) program as one of America’s top programs for increasing academic opportunities and increasing achievement for Latino students. The PSU BiSped program was selected from among 165 competitors from 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as one of 22 national finalists for the 2013 Examples of Excelencia recognition.

Conceived and run by Excelencia in Education, this is the only national initiative to systematically identify, recognize, and catalogue evidence-based programs that improve Latino college success. Excelencia in Education is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.

Funded by a five-year federal grant, the BiSped program prepared almost 30 bilingual/bicultural special education teachers uniquely skilled to differentiate English learners who may be struggling due to language differences rather than disability. BiSped was one of only eight programs in the nation focused on preparing such teachers. Although the grant funding has now ended, the program’s coordinator, Dr. Julie Esparza Brown, has developed an five-course online certificate program on multicultural special education that will assist even more classroom teachers in learning strategies for understanding and working with these students. Participants are not required to be bilingual to enroll in the certificate program. “By offering it online, we are hoping to reach districts that would not otherwise have access to such a program. Ultimately, we want to prepare all teachers with the knowledge and skills to effectively teach all students no matter their language, ability, or experiential backgrounds,” said Dr. Brown.

Today’s announcement event, Celebraciòn de Excelencia, coincides with the release of the 2013 edition of What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education, a compendium of all 22 recognized programs, along with the evidence of their success. Through this annual process, Excelencia in Education continues to grow America’s largest inventory of programs and strategies that higher education leaders, policymakers, and others tap into to accelerate degree completion among Latinos.

This is the eighth annual celebration of Examples of Excelencia. Excelencia in Education has systematically reviewed more than 500 programs to identify and recognized over 100 programs and departments that demonstrate that they effectively boost Latino enrollment, performance, and graduation.

“As one of this year’s National Finalists, Portland State University is at the forefront of meeting the challenge of improving higher educational achievement for Latino students,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. “No longer should policymakers and institutional leaders ask how to improve college success for Latinos—we have the largest accumulation of proven examples and tested strategies that show them how. Today’s question is do leaders have the will to put these practices into action.”

To download What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education, which includes detailed information about all of the programs recognized today, visit EdExcelencia.org.

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