GSE receives $1.35 million to improve literacy for English language learners

Children with map book at school

Project Lee (Lectura para excelencia y exito will help ELLs in both general and special education.

Project LEE (Lectura para excelencia y éxito) has been funded through the Office of Special Education Programs in the US Department of Education to facilitate literacy instruction for English language learners (ELLs) in grades 3–5 in general and special education classes. Professors Julie Esparza Brown, principal investigator, and Amanda Sanford, both associate professors in the PSU Special Education Department, will lead this four-year model demonstration grant. Sylvia Linan-Thompson, associate professor in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon and the primary investigator on a prior model demonstration grant, will also support the grant in a collaborative effort across institutions. Phyllis Ault from Education Northwest will serve as the project’s evaluator.

Model demonstration grants are intended to fund projects that have the most promising practices and potential for positive outcomes in classrooms.

“We are proud that our PSU grant is one of only three of these projects selected by the US Department of Education in the nation,” said Brown.

Brown and Sanford are partnering with the Woodburn School District, working with classroom teachers in three schools, Heritage, Washington, and Nellie Muir.

Using a framework created by Sanford, Brown, and Turner (2012) called PLUSS, the team will use the district’s existing curriculum and embed it with culturally and linguistically responsive practices, specifically for English learners with disabilities (ELSWD).

“While we have evidence to suggest this works from small-scale research, this gives us the opportunity to replicate and scale up the model at a whole school level, with the ultimate goal of scaling up nationally,” said Brown. “The model was created to build upon what school districts already have on their shelves. The problem is that most of these instructional programs have not included English learners in their research. Rather than throw everything away, the PLUSS framework helps teachers adapt that curriculum to the linguistic and cultural needs of the students in their specific classroom.”

The grant will develop lesson plans using the PLUSS framework to be accumulated on Project LEE’s website, generating a database of instructional units that document student performance and outcomes. Along with improving student language and literacy outcomes, the process of implementing this framework with fidelity will be disseminated nationally to benefit children beyond Oregon’s classrooms.

A previous $1.25 million grant to PSU, the Diverse Special Educator Project, was co-authored by Brown and PSU Associate Professor Sheldon Loman and delivers training for aspiring teachers who are competent in working with ELLs in special education and general classrooms.

One thought on “GSE receives $1.35 million to improve literacy for English language learners

  1. Wonderful news. This strategy to adapt existing materials and curriculum to the needs of English Learners makes perfect sense both for students to remain in inclusive settings and for districts to make efficient use of time and materials in instruction. Congratulations, Julie Esparza Brown and Amanda Sanford!

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