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Educators help dual-language learners through the IMPACT-PD grant

Teacher pointing at words on blackboardThe IMPACT-PD grant—Improving Preschoolers’ Acquisition of Language through Coaching Teachers and Professional Development—is playing an integral role in providing preschool educators the tools they need to help their students develop proficiency in English as a second language.

The United States Department of Education National Professional grant, funded by the Office of English Language Acquisition, aims to provide educators with professional development opportunities for improving instruction of dual-language learners in preschool.

The IMPACT-PD program, a partnership between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, focuses on four goals to further training and education to children learning English early in life:

Host online professional development modules, which makes training more accessible

Host in-field English language learning opportunities, providing opportunities beyond the classroom

Create professional development and outreach activities for parents, families and community engagement

Enhance educator preparedness to teach English learners through English as a second language degree seeking coursework

The grant enhances teachers’ education so they can better teach their students who may be dual-language learners. The overall aim of the program is to improve instruction for pre-kindergarten English learners.

Kelly Hill, Ph.D., assistant professor in UAB’s School of Education Department of Curriculum and Instruction and IMPACT-PD’s principal investigator, has already seen positive results since the program started in 2016.

So far, 73 pre-K teachers from all regions in Alabama have completed online modules, and 26 teachers are currently participating in the online modules this fall. These teachers outperformed comparison teachers on an assessment of ESL content knowledge, and they showed significant growth in confidence of meeting the needs of English-learning students on multiple instructional variables. A total of 21 undergraduate students successfully completed four graduate-level courses in the ESL master’s degree seeking track. These students outperformed comparison students on the EdTPA assessment.  

“The results speak to the potential of the project to shift teacher confidence and content knowledge,” Hill said. “Through this program, we are educating our teachers and enabling them access to gain these skills.”

In addition, the project has partnered with the Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center for three years to produce six conferences with 89 participants. These conferences bring together nationally recognized researchers with a strong focus on serving English learners and serving their families. 

Another significant component of the IMPACT-PD grant is the importance of continuing education and literacy for children into summer, which inspired summer programs focusing on parent and family engagement, based on the grant’s third goal.

An excellent example of the grant’s summer programming is the full-day summer program during the month of June made available to all children enrolled in Tarrant Elementary School. The focus is heavy on dual-language learners. Part of the summer programming includes a Family Literacy Night. This family education workshop is for students in 4-year-old preschool through second grade and their families. The specific aim is to help families of children learning English as an additional language understand the importance of reading together and how to best support their child’s academics. After the workshop, children were able to pick free books to take home with them. Families are then encouraged to read together at home.

“The IMPACT-PD program helped me see how very important family engagement was to our classroom,” said a participating teacher. “Even though there were language barriers, we can communicate in many different ways, and parents can be a welcomed part of their child’s learning. Families have so much to offer the classroom, if given the chance.”

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