By Dr. Katie Brooks and Project Manager Susan Adams
From College of Education 2011 Year in Review
Project Alianza has put the finishing touches on Year 4 of our five-year cycle. It is amazing how quickly our time is flying by, and it is quite startling to think that we will begin our final year of this grant cycle in September 2011. We have been so focused on the work of our teacher participants that we have frequently forgotten to stop and notice all that has been accomplished.
Project Alianza is a $1.2 million Title III professional development grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Katie Brooks is the grant writer and the principle investigator, and Susan Adams is the director of Project Alianza. The ultimate goal of Project Alianza is to impact the instructional practices and cultures of schools, thereby improving educational outcomes for secondary English language learners (ELLs) in our partnership school districts in Marion County.
We began our work with three major goals: to integrate English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher standards throughout our College of Education undergraduate programs; to prepare 360 secondary mainstream teachers to support ELLs in meeting academic and language development standards; and to strengthen the capacity of 24 secondary educators to become instructional leaders in their home districts.
Our goals have evolved and adapted as unexpected and exciting opportunities presented themselves to us. We are proud to report that the College of Education is now accredited to issue English as New Language (ENL) licenses to existing license holders upon completion of the ENL licensure coursework and successful completion of Praxis II. In addition, we have found our colleagues eager and open to finding creative and engaging ways to weave into their courses approaches, stances and practices that have been demonstrated as beneficial to ELLs.
Currently more than 250 teachers from our partnership districts (Indianapolis Public Schools, MSD Pike Township, MSD Lawrence Township and MSD Washington Township) have completed the full year of commitment to Project Alianza. Participants are awarded six hours of free graduate school credit hours which they may use for license renewal, pay grade increases, apply toward a master’s degree and/or ENL licensure. We are gratified to see that in a few school buildings, significant percentages of the faulty have completed the Alianza program.
For example, out of the 58 certified teachers currently teaching at MSD Washington Township Westlane Middle School, 25 of those teachers are Alianza participants (43 percent). Of the 40 certified teachers at IPS Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy, 18 are Alianza teachers (45 percent). In MSD Lawrence Township high schools, we have been amazed to see large groups from several departments (most notably the art and science departments at Lawrence North) encourage nearly 100 percent of their department members to participate in Project Alianza. We are excited by the long-term collegial relationships and deep impact on building culture that this level of involvement permits us to create over the years of the grant.
In addition to the year-long Alianza experience, more than 150 Indiana teachers have completed specialized summer workshops geared toward accelerated learning of ELLs. More than 75 local teachers and teacher educators have completed a unique 5-day intensive Critical Friends Group Coaches Seminar (see www.schoolreforminitiative.org for more information). These additional opportunities are extended to individuals who demonstrate the will, skill and capacity to become change agents in their local schools and districts.
We have learned much about the supports and new knowledge teachers are asking for and about the challenges administrators are eager to take up to accelerate the learning and improve educational outcomes for ELLs. We are firmly convinced that teachers do both their best learning and their best work in a collaborative, cooperative, encouraging and intellectually challenging learning community.
We also believe that creating these learning conditions for teachers is the very best way to support them as they seek to create those same necessary conditions for each and every student in their classrooms. Our final Alianza year will find us encouraging the continuing deepening and maturation of these learning communities as we look eagerly to what the future holds for this important work.