The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $1.8 million, five-year grant to the Bronx Institute at Lehman College. The funds will support Project ALPHA (Academic Language Produces Higher Achievement), a new program that provides professional development to teachers in the field of English language instruction.
According to the New York City Department of Education, more than 26 percent of all Bronx K-12 students, approximately 40,000 students are English Language Learners (ELLs)—children who are not proficient in English and speak another language at home. In New York City, 62 percent of all ELL students speak Spanish, but in the Bronx that number increases to 85 percent.
“In order to provide students with greater access to educational opportunities, it is crucial that teaching professionals implement a full range of up-to-date pedagogical strategies and tools to achieve results in strengthening English language abilities for learners too often left behind,” said Dr. José Luis Cruz, president of Lehman College. “This new funding for Project ALPHA at the Bronx Institute focuses on advancing classroom methodologies to accelerate language acquisition and smooth transitions to higher education levels.”
Using a cohort-based model, Project ALPHA recruits dozens of certified teachers in Bronx public schools, developing a network of support. This month, the program admitted its first cohort, 30 new public school teachers as non-degree students. Each teacher is able to earn credits toward either a Masters of Science in Education (MSEd); an advanced certificate for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL); or advanced certificate for bilingual extension.
Project ALPHA develops effective instructional strategies in order to help English learners stay in school, gain academic content and literacy skills, and graduate from high school and enter college; some of those instructional strategies include: teaching academic vocabulary intensively using a variety of instructional activities as an alternative to rote learning; providing small group instructional intervention to students struggling in areas of literacy; and English language development.
“Project ALPHA addresses a critical need in New York City,” said Herminio Martínez, executive director of the Bronx Institute and a professor in the Middle and High School Education department. “The fact is that students who speak English as a second language need additional networks of support in our city’s schools. Project ALPHA will address the needs of these students, providing hardworking teachers a viable path to develop and improve their skills as English language instructors.”
The $1.8 million grant will provide for the education of 150 students during the next five years, or about 30 students per year. The second cohort of 30 students will begin the program in September 2017. Currently, all the students are public school teachers, but parochial school teachers can also be accepted.
“By the end of the five-year grant cycle, Project ALPHA will serve at least 150 teachers,” said Bruce Irushalmi, deputy director of the Bronx Institute. “The end goal is to create lasting professional learning communities, supporting collaboration between New York City teachers across a range of different experience levels.”