Full scholarships are now available to schoolteachers enrolling in Penn State Harrisburg’s statewide English as a Second Language certificate program.
Supported by a federal grant program titled ESL SCOPE (Secondary Content Online Preparation Program) and launched a year ago, the certificate program is now available online to more effectively meet the needs of teachers from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 across the Commonwealth.
“We have been fortunate to have obtained additional financial support for scholarships," said Lisa Buenaventura, program director. "The fourth cohort of students in the program is planned for spring 2010 and scholarships will be awarded to eligible teachers entering the program at that time. The scholarship program provides the opportunity for teachers to cover the entire cost of the 15-credit program.”
The certificate program, housed in the college’s School of Behavioral Sciences and Education and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), is open to teachers of all grade levels, but scholarships are limited to those who teach in grades 4 through 12 and provide content area instruction in English, mathematics and social studies or science.
With the new PDE guidelines, teachers of grades 4 through 12 will be expected to demonstrate expertise in a specific subject matter area. The ESL SCOPE program emphasizes the integration of ESL instructional and assessment strategies in these four content areas.
“Preference is also given to teachers in schools with low adequate yearly progress (AYP) or low annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAO) in addition to those from rural areas with limited access to professional development,” Buenaventura said.
The five courses in the program are delivered entirely online with only the last ESL capstone course involving an action research project in the field. The online delivery accommodates full-time working teachers who can set their own weekly study schedule.
Introduced in 2003 on the strength of a $1.27 million federal grant, “the demand for the certificate program has been remarkable,” Buenaventura said. “To date, more than 150 teachers across the Commonwealth have earned certification.”
First targeted to teachers in the region, the program was expanded statewide in 2007 through a $1.37 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition under the National Professional Development program. The federal support enabled the online study component to be introduced.
Research indicates that nearly half of all secondary education content teachers with English language learners lack the necessary preparation to effectively teach language literacy while also teaching subject matter. Additionally, studies suggest English language learners are more likely to perform poorly on measures of academic achievement, to have limited academic English proficiency, and to drop out of school.
“Our continually changing Pennsylvania demographic necessitates ESL learning for teachers so they can more effectively work with students,” Buenaventura said.