NEW SUPPORT FOR DIVERSITY AND TESOL  

Within Language in Education

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Richard Light and Carla Meskill

Department of Education of Theory and Practice

University at Albany, SUNY

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The year 2050 has special significance for those concerned with diversity in America. It is about this time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau projections, that the "Anglo" majority of America becomes a minority. Although this demographic milestone is some years away, Anglo minorities are already a fact in many urban school systems. These multicultural populations are of special concern to several projects underway in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice.

The most recent ETAP project, supported by a five year (1995-2000), 1.1 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education, provides financial and professional assistance to pre-service and in-service teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (T'ESOL). Directed by Professors Richard Light and Carla Meskill, the project includes new and innovative components in "Language Minority Advocacy" and "Second Language Instructional Media". In addition, a Field Experience Component, involving teams of ETAP doctoral and masters degree graduate students, faculty members, school personnel, and community members, aims to develop and implement new approaches to assisting language minority learners in the schools. Under the project grant, pre-service participants receive tuition assistance and stipends, and upon successful completion of the program receive a Masters degree and New York State certification in TESOL.

This new Language Advocacy Project is based on a systematic training network planned over the past two years with upstate New York school districts, the New York State Education Department and a Project Advisory Council. It builds on ETAP's long-standing tradition of concern with the education of language minority children. Two new staff members have been hired to assist with crucial aspects of the project: Irene Pompetti-Szul will oversee the Advocacy Component and teach several courses, while Marco Mitrani will work closely with the Instructional Media Component. In addition, in cooperation with the Department of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the new project is planning a series of lecture-discussions on issues of importance in the education of language minority children featuring speakers from academia and from minority communities. This Spring 1996 lecture series, open to the educational community, will culminate with a conference in March featuring renowned educator Paulo Freire.

The new Language Advocacy Project complements several other projects already underway, directed by faculty in the Language in Education Specialization within ETAP. The National Research Center on Literature Teaching and Learning, supported by the U.S. Department of Education and directed by Arthur Applebee, Judith Langer and Alan Purves (1990-1996) is an eight million dollar research effort to inform and reform English education in the Unites States, with important components directed at the education of diverse populations in the schools. The Bilingual Doctoral Fellowship Program (1990-1996), directed by Richard Light and supported by the U.S. Department of Education, provides tuition and stipend support for study toward Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Language Education. It is designed for those with a special interest in the education of minority language youth in our schools. Finally, substantial grants over four summers (1993-1996) from the U.S. Agency for International Development have enabled Carla Meskill to design and direct a series of programs in Albany to enhance the effectiveness of Egyptian Ministry of Education supervisors of English as a foreign language.

In all of these special projects, as well as in their regular coursework, Language in Education faculty are attempting to prepare educators for working more effectively with those linguistically and culturally diverse populations which, the demographers tell us, will be the majority of the population in 50 short years.

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