Improving Educational Opportunities for English Language Learners

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In the nearly forty years since they were founded, UFT Teacher Centers have helped tens of thousands of teachers deepen their content knowledge and hone their teaching methods.  That’s why we are pleased that a $250,000 state grant will establish UFT Teacher Centers specifically designed to help educators meet the needs of English language learners in Washington Heights.
 
The initiative, funded in this year’s state budget, will open Teacher Centers in multiple schools in Community School District 6 in Washington Heights, which has the highest English language learner population in the city at 27.7%, more than double the school system’s average and a natural place to start the pilot.
 
We know this work is necessary. 
 
We hear from teachers who want ways to engage the 9th grader who lands in their classroom not speaking a word of English, yet who is expected to pass the same ELA Regents in the next four years as their English-speaking peers.
 
We hear from parents who want their history and culture respected even as their children learn English and how to navigate in their new home.
 
We hear from administrators who want to help their teachers find ways to draw on their students’ native language abilities even as they build fluency in English.
 
Teacher Centers are uniquely suited for this task. They are a collaboration between the United Federation of Teachers, the city Department of Education, the New York State Department of Education and participating schools and universities. Last year alone, the UFT’s 110 Teacher Centers provided professional learning for more than 217,000 educators, administrators and school aides.
 
These new Teacher Centers will provide educators in Washington Heights additional resources and techniques specifically designed to help students who may have social language skills in English but need to acquire fluency in academic English. 
 
The Centers will provide master teachers to work with educators of all subjects and to provide the most up-to-date curriculum and professional development for educating new immigrants and English language learners. The focus will be on fostering English language acquisition and literacy skills through the content areas.  These centers become teaching laboratories, where professionals can hone new skills and share ideas.
 
We hope this additional professional support will encourage educators to seek dual certification and help us grow the cadre of certified teachers for English language learners.
 
In Washington Heights, we hope to embed a Teacher Center at all levels – elementary, middle and high school. One of the locations under consideration is the George Washington campus, where a Teacher Center could have a direct impact on the professional learning of the staff of all four schools located in the building.
 
The new Teacher Centers will also work with the schools’ paraprofessionals- teacher’s aides – many of whom are bilingual and therefore uniquely qualified to support students in their home languages. 
 
The new centers will extend the work already being done at two existing Teacher Centers in Community School District 6, one located in PS 48 and the other at the Community Health Academy of the Heights.
 
We hope as we deepen the support given English language learners, we can take the lessons we learn in Washington Heights and share them with other neighborhoods in New York City and across New York State.

 
By working together, and building on this track record of high-quality professional development, we can give our educators and schools the tools they need to help our English language learners find their voice –  in both English and in their native language. 

Fluency in multiple languages is vital and increasingly necessary tool for our students to have if we want them to thrive in our ever more complicated, interdependent world.


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