The U.S. Department of Education awarded a $2.6 million five-year National Professional Development (NPD) grant for a proposal aimed at providing increased resources for multilingual education.
The proposal, named the English Learners’ Educational Excellence Capitol Teacher Training Project (Project ELEECT), was created by professors in Georgetown University’s Master of Arts in Educational Transformation (MAET) program. The proposal will use the grant to support the professional development of teachers in Washington, D.C. Project ELEECT’s goals include increasing the number of multilingual teachers, expanding culturally diverse resources for multilingual students and preparing teachers to meet the needs of those students.
Project ELEECT demonstrates a commitment to increasing equity in D.C. schools by improving education for multilingual students, according to Douglas Reed, lead principal investigator (PI) of Project ELEECT and director of the MAET program.
“In this case, it’s about their linguistic abilities and the languages that they already know, and then using those strengths as assets to help them achieve what they want to achieve,” Reed said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “The program has really made a commitment to racial equity and linguistic equity, and I think this grant really validates that.”
The NPD grant, combined with university funded merit awards, will cover 83% of the tuition cost for aspiring teachers, according to a university press release.
To confront the growing population of multilingual students in D.C., Project ELEECT will partner with D.C. Public Schools and public charter schools in the District to provide training catered to the D.C. public school sector, according to Crissa Stephens, one of the PIs for Project ELEECT.
“We’ve really developed the project also to be responsive to what’s really happening here in D.C. to what schools are telling us they need, what we’re seeing from student data about what they need and just to build a robust partnership with schools across the entire context of education in D.C.,” Stephens said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
Project ELEECT is an important continuation of the university’s role in the broader D.C. community, according to Sabrina Wesley-Nero, one of the PIs for Project ELEECT.
“Georgetown has a history of supporting schools throughout the city in different ways, particularly for the educational transformation program,” Wesley-Nero said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “What this grant allows us to do is to extend that work in teacher preparation.”
The number of multilingual learners in the United States has increased by 60% over the past decade, with students from non-English speaking backgrounds constituting 10% of students nationwide, according to a 2017 Brookings Institution report.
The university’s partnership with D.C. public schools and public charter schools on Project ELEECT will help meet the needs of students in the region, according to Hilary Darilek, who is CEO of E.L. Haynes Public Charter School and worked with MAET in developing the professional certificate portion of Project ELEECT.
“I really have incredible respect for Georgetown’s creativity on this front,” Darilek said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I do think universities don’t always respond quickly to the communities they serve and they work in, and they reached out to us to ask for what we need and how they could provide for and support our students’ needs, and it’s just an incredible partnership that I’m excited to start and to launch.”
Equipping teachers with the tools to support multilingual students combats inequity in English-oriented classrooms and uplifts the experiences and identities of multilingual students, according to Stephens.
“Linguistically diverse families often find themselves experiencing narratives deficit in society, and I think that’s due to many different reasons,” Stephens said. “I think that by providing instruction that really counters that and is very anti-racist in nature, it’s a way of speaking back to some of those narratives, and so it will better serve students and families. Hopefully, it will also help reshape the way that they experience their identities in the school system and in the community.”