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Vol 57 No. 12 : June 15, 2005
Vol 57 No. 12 | June 15, 2005
Center for Language Minority Education and Research Receives $48,000 Award

CSULB’s Center for Language Minority Education and Research recently received a contract award of $48,000 from the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) to support a year’s work at Morningside High School aimed at working with English language learners and closing the student achievement gap.

“Our mission is to work with local school districts, community-based organizations, school board members, and people on the policy-making level to improve student academic achievement, especially those from the underserved population,” said the center’s interim director Kim-Oanh Nguyen-Lam. “We work not just with teachers but with administrators, parents, policymakers and community members to support and enhance the education of the underserved population.”

The award that began in May 2005 will continue through June 2006, explained the center’s Alex Morales, director of School Improvement Initiatives. “We will be working directly with Morningside High School for the next year,” he said. “The center is part of a team put together by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Through initial assessments of a school, they hire additional service providers. As a statewide external evaluator approved by the California Department of Education, the center has been offered this contract. The center received seven such contracts in 2004 in and out of California. Together, they totaled $400,000.”

Awards like the IUSD contract help support work with campuses both in and out of state. “We have a number of contracts working with public high schools in Portland, Ore.,” said Nguyen-Lam. “Our expertise is going into the schools not doing well with high minority student populations. The teachers may not be prepared adequately to work with these students. We work with the schools to do initial assessments of their strengths and their areas of challenge that we can support and improve. By working on a team basis, we can continue to monitor and assess their progress after we leave. With most other professional development programs, once the experts leave, student achievement returns to its original levels. By working with local people, we help them acquire the experience and develop the needed skills to continue to enhance teaching and learning for all teachers and students.”

The center works not only with schools but also with policymakers. Both Nguyen-Lam and Morales are school board members (Nguyen-Lam was elected in November 2004 to the Garden Grove Unified School District board and Morales has served for 23 years as a member of the Whittier Unified School District board) and use their expertise to serve the center. “When I work with policymakers, I look through a policy lens; I’ve been a principal so when I work with principals, I look through that lens; the same is true for teachers. Every time you add a lens of experience, you see that much farther,” said Morales.

A unique characteristic of the center is its ability to form partnerships with the diverse linguistic and ethnic communities. “We work with the African-American community, the Latino community, the Pacific Island, Southeast Asian, Khmer, Vietnamese, and Hmong communities,” said Nguyen-Lam. “We form close partnerships with all the different groups so that when we try to achieve something, it isn’t an effort for just one group but for everybody. From the time when the center was established 12 years ago, we were clearly charged with building bridges between the university and the community and we have done a good job of it but we have reached a very critical time at the center. With the change of leadership in the coming months, we hope the center’s mission will not be altered.”       

One of the center’s strengths is the depth of its experience.

“All of us in the center came from different entities and affiliations but what drew us together is our commitment and clear vision to serve the underserved population,” said Nguyen-Lam. “We’re looking at achieving social equity with educational excellence. That’s our goal. We make issues of equity explicit. When students from different groups do not achieve at the same rate, we look for the opportunity gaps and make sure that all students have the right resources and support to attain their highest academic achievement.” 

 

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