FAU receives $1.8 million grant to improve pre-K English proficiency

Newswise – Florida Atlantic Universityit is College of Education in conjunction with the Osceola County School District (SDOC) received a $1.8 million grant from the United States Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) for a five-year project titled “PRAISE, Preparing for Readiness and Academic Improvement for pre-School English Learners”. PRAISE is designed to improve the quality of instruction for English language learners and build the capacity of educators to support the preparation of preschool English language learners for kindergarten. FAU is one of 44 institutions selected nationwide to receive this grant in 2022.

“We are extremely proud and thrilled to receive this important grant from the U.S. Department of Education in conjunction with our partners at the Osceola County School District,” said Stephan Silverman, Ed.D., Dean of FAU College of Education. “PRAISE opens up a new area of ​​educational leadership for ESL and voluntary pre-kindergarten that could serve as an example for Florida and the nation.”

PRAISE develops, implements and evaluates a year-long professional development course containing two sequential components: a four-day summer institute for early childhood educators and school leaders, and a monthly professional learning community to prepare for the school that builds on the learning of the summer institute in which each school develops, implements and strengthens a school readiness action plan for pre-kindergarten students.

College of Education researchers will provide professional development for paraprofessionals in pre-K classrooms located at SDOC schools. PRAISE plans to hire approximately 192 educators from 24 elementary schools offering Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) programs, a free pre-K program for 4-year-olds who reside in Florida. Professional development will directly benefit 1,223 preschool students, more than 60% of whom are expected to receive English language learning services when they enter kindergarten.

Daniel Reyes-GuerraPh.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology at FAU, is the Principal Investigator of PRAISE. Sabrina Sembian, Ph.D., Associate Professor of TESOL and Bilingual Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at FAU; and Maysa BarakatPh.D., Associate Professor of Instructional Leadership in the Department of Instructional Leadership and Research Methodology at FAU, are co-PI of the project.

FAU and SDOC professionals with expertise in pre-K language learning and school leadership will form the FAU-SDOC Working Group, the governing body responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of professional development components.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the state is ranked third in the nation for population of English language learners. Although Spanish is the primary first language for these students, English learners speak over 300 different languages.

“English learners in Florida and across our country face significant barriers,” Reyes-Guerra said. “Together with our partners at the Osceola County School District, PRAISE will help prepare young students to develop their English and literacy skills as the foundation for their future academic success. The aim is to facilitate their language learning so that they are on an equal footing with their peers when they enter the classroom. We don’t just want them to excel in their studies, we want them to be able to harness their language resources to successfully socialize with their peers, teachers and others.

The U.S. Department of Education’s OELA provides national leadership to help ensure that English language learners and immigrant students are fluent in English and successful in their studies. In addition to preserving heritage languages ​​and cultures, OELA is committed to providing all students with opportunities to learn bi-literacy or multi-literacy skills. OELA provides national leadership by informing policy decisions; administers discretionary grant programs such as National Professional Development to prepare professionals to teach and support English language learners; invests in research and assessment studies that have practical applications in preparing English language learners to meet college and professional learning standards; and disseminates information on research, practice and policy in education for English language learners through its National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition.


About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened in 1964 as Florida’s fifth public university. Today, the University enrolls more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at six campuses located along Florida’s southeast coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research expenditures and surpassed its peers in student success rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional achievement gaps disappear. FAU is designated as a Hispanic-serving institution, ranked among the top public universities by U.S. News & World Report, and as a high-research institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.

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