Winthrop University: Federal Grant for $2.8 Million Will Help Winthrop Prepare Educators for New English Speakers
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Federal Grant for $2.8 Million Will Help Winthrop Prepare Educators for New English Speakers

October 08, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Over the next five years, Winthrop will use this grant to collaborate with Charleston County, Fort Mill, Greenville County and Rock Hill school districts.
  • It will provide access to free professional development for teachers, administrators and school support personnel in supporting English learners; family education programs that promote college and career success; and family access to, and preparation in, promoting early literacy.

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – With thousands of students in South Carolina schools learning English as another language, Winthrop University will use a $2.8 million grant to provide professional development to four school districts to help those districts meet the needs of their diverse population of students and families.

South Carolina experienced a 787 percent increase in the number of English learners from 2000-01 to 2017-18, which is the highest increase in the United States. As of 2018, the most recent year for the data from the National Center for Education Statistics, South Carolina had 45,411 English learners, representing 6 percent of the total student enrollment in its public schools.

Around the country, there are an estimated 5 million in U.S. public schools who are learning the English language.

“The magnitude of this shift has left our state, specifically our teachers and school administrators, understaffed and underprepared to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population of students and their families,” said Professor Lisa Johnson, who is a senior associate to the dean in the Richard W. Riley College of Education.

Johnson and another education faculty member, Associate Professor Kelly M. Costner, successfully wrote a federal grant, the SC PALMETTO (SC Partners Advocating for Learners who are Multi-Lingual through Education That Targets Opportunity) project, to address these language challenges. For this 2021 competition for the National Professional Development Program grant cycle, there were 198 applications of which 50 were funded, including Winthrop’s application.

Over the next five years, Winthrop will use this grant to collaborate with Charleston County, Fort Mill, Greenville County and Rock Hill school districts. It will provide access to free professional development for teachers, administrators and school support personnel in supporting English learners; family education programs that promote college and career success; and family access to, and preparation in, promoting early literacy.

Winthrop educators attribute the grant award to the strong history of partnerships with local districts for which the College of Education is known, as well as success in prior projects. “We are fortunate to engage in a continuous process of simultaneous renewal with our public school partners,” said Dean Jennie Rakestraw. “Together, we work to prepare future teachers while addressing the ongoing mission of ensuring equal access to high quality education for all students. Sharing a common goal is a strong argument for financial support for projects such as this.”

The team is currently in the final year of a similar grant-funded project with Fort Mill and Rock Hill schools and looks forward to adding Charleston and Greenville counties. “Adding the Charleston and Greenville schools is an exciting move, as these are the areas with the highest populations of English learners in the state,” Costner stated. “Further, the fact that these two districts didn’t hesitate to join us in the proposal for this project is a true testament to the reputation of Winthrop’s partnerships and our teacher education programs across the state. Our collaboration with such large districts will not only increase the impact of the project but also enhance the programming by incorporating their extensive experience with English learners.”

Winthrop’s award-winning teacher education program and partnership network have received recognition by local partners and national organizations. “We have learned that our strongest asset is each other,” Johnson said. “The knowledge and skills we gain from our districts helps us more effectively prepare teachers for today’s schools while we provide districts support in working with practicing teachers, administrators and families. It’s the epitome of a ‘win-win’ situation!”

For more information, contact Johnson at johnsonle@winthrop.edu or Costner at costnerk@winthrop.edu.

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Last Updated: 10/8/21