CSULB’s Center for Language Minority Education and Research recently received a $40,500 contract for English Language Development Training at Moffett Elementary School in the Lennox School District. The contract runs through May 2008.
“The overarching goal for this and similar contracts is to improve student achievement,” said Alex Morales, director of the School Improvement Initiative for CLMER. “We work with teachers, assess their pedagogical practices and then provide the needed staff development. At Moffett, we want to see continuous student progress from beginning to intermediate to advanced levels in their acquisition of the English language. Many times, schools and districts ask teachers to accomplish many things in the classroom; however, these schools and districts need to provide the appropriate level of teacher support. These contracts provide support and give teachers the tools, knowledge and experience to be successful with their English Learner students. That is our challenge.”
Since it first began providing public education in 1910, the Lennox School District has grown to more than 7,200 students attending a preschool, five elementary schools, a middle school and a charter high school. The district, and particularly Moffett Elementary School, receive state funding to be used specifically to address English language development for English learners.
The Moffett contract is closely aligned to CLMER’s mission, Morales believes. “We advocate for all students but particularly for students who are English language learners,” he said. “These contracts fit into our focus of providing quality instruction for English language learners. There are 1.5 million English language learners identified in California. CLMER uses its experience and expertise to assist schools with these students.”
Morales argues that contracts like this achieve real success. “These contracts work with the stakeholders at the school and change the culture and pedagogical practice in the classroom,” he said. “For instance, it is significant when teachers stop thinking of something as ‘bad’ and start thinking of it as a challenge. As soon as attitudes and outlooks change, teachers and schools change how they do business, ‘bad news’ turns into a challenge and teachers acquire the tools needed to take on the challenge. Low-social economic students with limited English proficiency may seem like bad news to some but a change in attitude is that first step to changing that perceived bad news into good news.
“English language development training and staff development is not a one-shot approach to changing someone’s pedagogical practice in the classroom," Morales continued. “It is an ongoing, sustained coaching model. In addition, educational focus walks where we visit classrooms with designated teachers to look for predetermined, agreed-upon classroom teacher behaviors also play a significant role in some of the contract work we do with schools and districts. This is a teacher-to-teacher assessment practice that can be as simple as seeing the state standards posted in the classroom or as important as viewing a teacher differentiate instruction. Of course, the biggest assessment of our work comes when the California’s standardized test scores are released to the public in August.”
Morales has served as a university lecturer, classroom teacher, district office administrator and principal in the Long Beach, El Rancho and South Whittier school districts.
“Being at a university with a diverse staff that includes Ph.D.s and practitioners as well as school board members such as our director, Kim-Oanh Nguyen, and myself is an advantage,” he said. “We bring in a theoretical foundation, policy development and build upon that with our current school and classroom experience.”