Campus: CSU Long Beach -- February 10, 2003

U.S. Department of Education Awards 5-Year, $1.88 Million Grant to Cal State Long Beach for Minority Teacher Preparation Project

Through its Office of Elementary and Secondary School Improvement, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded a five-year, $1.88 million grant to the Center for Language Minority Education and Research (CLMER) at Cal State Long Beach for a program that will help prepare bilingual educators for classrooms in the Santa Ana Unified School Districts.

Titled the “High-Quality Minority Teacher Preparation Project,” the program is focusing on Spanish-speaking and Vietnamese-speaking educators, and it is giving priority to individuals with strengths in the areas of math and science. The first cohort, which consists of 16 students, began classes at the university Jan. 27.

Those selected to participate will be supported (tuition, books, etc.) in attaining a California multiple-or single-subject credential in subject matter areas as appropriate and will receive additional preparation for working with English language learners in bilingual and related English language development settings. In return, those who graduate from the program must commit to teaching at a school within the Santa Ana district for a minimum of three years.

“Vietnamese American and Mexican American educators are our primary candidate groups, but we are accepting any candidates who are bilingual because there is such a shortage of teachers who are able to teach in two languages,” said Kim-Oanh Nguyen-Lam, curriculum coordinator for CLMER and director of the recently funded project. “We are also focusing on these subjects because there is a large shortage of teachers in the areas of math and science at the high school level.”

Actually, there are three primary groups that are being targeted by program officials: Vietnamese Americans and Mexican Americans working in other non-teaching professional fields or with prior non-teaching professional experience and expertise; former teachers from Vietnam or Mexico; and bilingual Vietnamese Americans and Mexican Americans currently working as paraprofessionals (or teacher’s aides) at the school district who have an associate of arts degree or higher level of prior preparation.

Nguyen-Lam said many enrolled with the first cohort of students fall into the first primary group. “Many of the people who have responded to take part in the project have been working in the computer or engineering fields but have been laid off because of the economy,” she pointed out. “Many of these individuals are thinking of going in a different direction, which fits right into this program because it will help these individuals transition into the teaching profession.”

Part of the grant application requirement, Nguyen-Lam explained, is that project officials work with school districts that are experiencing teacher shortages and currently employing a high number of teachers who have emergency teaching permits. The Santa Ana district qualifies in both areas.

Santa Ana Unified has nearly 37,000 Spanish-speaking students and 525 Vietnamese-speaking students who are limited in English, according to data from 2001. That same data reveals that Santa Ana has 478 teachers on emergency permits.

“Our goal is to make sure these limited-English students get educators who are highly qualified—trained, prepared and committed—to teach students in these subject areas,” Nguyen-Lam said. “A natural by-product of this project will be teachers who themselves had to navigate a system not adequately prepared to handle limited-English learners and therefore have empathy for the students based on their own experiences. We also feel our candidates will have an advantage in that they came from the communities in which they will be teaching.”

Media Contacts: Rick Gloady, 562/985-5454
Shayne Schroeder, 562/985-1727

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