$2.9 million grant looks to increase the number of teachers supporting English Language Learners

October 12, 2021
Two students doing their homework inside Darwin Hall

By Nate Galvan | galvanna@sonoma.edu

(Rohnert Park, CA) — The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Sonoma State’s School of Education a five-year grant totaling more than $2.9 million for a project aimed at improving learning for students who are continuing to develop their home language while also learning English. 

Titled Biliteracy and Content Area Integrated Preparation (BCAIP), the project addresses the critical need in California and across the country to substantially increase the number of teachers who can support emergent bilingual TK-12 students, also known as English Language Learners. The project’s goal is to create a fully refined teacher preparation model so that other universities working with their local districts can collectively address the nationwide struggle for emergent bilingual learning and teaching. 

“I am extremely proud of this work led by Drs. Lyon, Estrada and Casesa and faculty from the School of Education,” said Dr. Laura Alamillo, dean of the School of Education. “The education of emergent bilingual children and families involves collaboration with our partnership districts and an expert lens for equity and inclusivity. We also know that the communities we serve come with vast cultural and linguistic wealth and knowledge. Preparing quality teachers with support from the Department of Education will address the complexity of this work.”

BCAIP will bring together education faculty from Sonoma State and Cal State East Bay, working alongside preservice teachers and their classroom mentor teachers to create a collaborative and innovative model of teacher preparation. The model focuses on coursework integrated with field experience and includes opportunities for preservice teachers to gain valuable instructional experience beneficial to emergent bilinguals, like translanguaging. The project will also hold family workshops to foster biliteracy for caregivers of emergent bilinguals. To understand the project’s lasting impact, BCAIP includes a rigorous research and evaluation component through a collaboration with San Diego State University.

The award makes School of Education Professor and Project Director Dr. Edward Lyon a prestigious 2021 National Professional Development Grantee. The Department of Education’s program contains stiff competition, with more than 198 applicants up for review this past year. SSU professors Dr. Rhianna Casesa and Dr. Kelly Estrada are co-principal investigators on the project, along with Dr. Lyn Scott from CSU East Bay and San Diego State’s Dr. Saul Maldonado.

“BCAIP draws on the very latest research that shows how emergent bilinguals can thrive in math, science, English, and other content areas,” said Lyon, who has been with SSU since 2015. “It also reflects research showing how even new teachers can be prepared to build on the language, culture, and lived experiences of diverse learners.”

For the next five years, Professor Lyon and his team will receive nearly $600,000 annually to fund their work to help break down barriers for English learners in the U.S. 

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Julia Gonzalez