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Researchers to Work on Improving Science Instruction for ELLs

More than 60 elementary schools in Florida are the focus of a new research project that will examine how English-language learners fare after receiving a new science curriculum that is designed to also reinforce their language development.

Okhee Lee, an education professor at New York University and a well-known expert on ELLs and science, is working on the project with two other NYU colleagues. A $4.5 million National Science Foundation grant is paying for the four-year study that seeks to illuminate how science achievement can be improved for ELLs.

Science achievement for students learning English trails that of their peers, a problem, Professor Lee says, that is exacerbated by the urgency to teach ELLs to read and do math. Often, she says, ELLs don't receive science instruction at all.

Lee has developed a curriculum and professional development for teachers known as "Promoting Science among English Language Learners (P-SELL)," which has been used in the Miami-Dade school system. Sean Cavanagh wrote about the Miami-Dade project for Education Week a few years ago.

With P-SELL, elementary teachers receive a lot of training to boost their science content knowledge and instructional strategies for teaching the content to ELLs. In Miami-Dade, science and math scores rose for ELLs who were part of the P-SELL program.

With this new grant, Lee and her colleagues are branching out to elementary schools in Jacksonville, Fort Myers, and Orlando, where half of the schools will use the P-SELL curriculum and professional development program and half will use the science curriculum adopted by their home school districts.

I am certain the results of this project will be highly anticipated, and hopefully, we will hear progress reports along the way. The project should wrap up by the end of 2015.

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