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Federal Grants Promote Science Ed. for English-Learners

A new $4.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation aims to improve science learning among English-language learners. As such, it's not alone but the latest in a string of federal awards targeting research and development for this student population.

Over at the Learning the Language blog, my colleague Lesli Maxwell describes the NSF grant just announced to researchers at New York University. The project, to involve more than 60 elementary schools in Florida, will examine how English-language learners fare after receiving a new science curriculum designed also to reinforce their language development.

The announcement called to mind a $3 million grant the Exploratorium in San Francisco won in 2010 under the U.S. Department of Education's Investing in Innovation, or i3, program. Under that effort, the Exploratorium—which describes itself as the museum of science, art, and human perception—proposed to blend its approach to inquiry-based science learning with English-language development, expanding a pilot program with an elementary school in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District to the entire school system. The idea, a press release from the Exploratorium explained, is to find ways to integrate "science and language development so that the value-added benefit science brings to language development outweighs the time it takes away from doing language development exclusively."

Meanwhile, in April 2011, the University of Georgia announced that it had won a $516,000 NSF grant to develop a model for improving science teaching and learning among middle school ELLs. The initiative includes a strong emphasis on inquiry-based learning and involving families, including with family science workshops at the University of Georgia campus.

Finally, the NSF issued a $1.1 million grant in July 2011 for a two-year exploratory study to identify effective practices for formative assessments of ELLs. The project, involving researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and at Denver, as well as the University of Washington, targets Spanish-speaking elementary and middle school students.

I have no doubt there are other examples out there, but these give a flavor of what's going on around the country. Know of another example? Let us know by posting a comment.

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