Feb. 18, 2008
Second graders in Heidi Christensen’s class at Bryant Elementary School in Sioux City are just some of the beneficiaries of a program at Morningside College that is helping teachers in Northwest Iowa effectively provide instruction to students for whom English is not their primary language.
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) is funding the program, titled “Project Unlimited Proficiency: Improving the Education of Limited English Proficient Children in Northwest Iowa,” through a grant awarded to Morningside last year. The Morningside College Education Department submitted the grant application to DOE in consortium with the Northwest Area Education Agency (AEA).
Project Unlimited Proficiency (PUP) offers in-service teachers the opportunity to prepare for acquiring state certification, or endorsement, for working with English as a second language (ESL) students in the Sioux City Community School District and other Northwest AEA school districts.
As part of the grant, 30 area teachers received scholarships that pay for their tuition and books for the ESL courses. In addition to teachers in Sioux City schools, other teachers in the program are from schools in Cherokee, Denison, Sioux Center and Hawarden. Teachers who successfully complete the ESL program will earn 18 hours of graduate credit, which they may choose to apply towards the requirements for a master of art in teaching degree from Morningside.
Christensen, a 2004 Morningside graduate and a second grade teacher at Bryant, is one of 17 Sioux City teachers participating in the PUP program.
“It’s a great program. I’ve really been excited to participate,” Christensen said. “I’ve been at Bryant four years now, and every year we have seen an increase in diversity at the school and more students for whom English is a second language. It will be beneficial for me to have my ESL certification in order to have strategies to be a better teacher for my second language learners.”
Since 1985, the number of limited English proficient (LEP) students and English language learners (ELL) in the state of Iowa has quadrupled, and correspondingly, since at least 1999, the state of Iowa has had a teacher shortage in the K-12 ESL area. These trends are strongly reflected in northwest Iowa, where Sioux City schools have consistently had the greatest number of LEP/ELL students, with 25 languages represented.
Morningside College’s education department developed Project Unlimited Proficiency in collaboration with the Northwest AEA and Kansas State University (KSU). The program uses KSU’s nationally recognized curriculum, “CLASSIC© ESL/Dual” and has full accreditation from the Iowa Department of Education. DOE awarded the college first-year funding of $230,258 and will award the college an average of $246,000 in funding in each of the next four years, provided federal monies are available and the college fulfills the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) performance measures established for the program.
Morningside College has educated teachers since its founding in 1894, and the graduate program began in the 1960s. The undergraduate program prepares students for teaching careers in elementary, secondary or special education. The graduate program offers a MAT degree with “professional educator” or “special education” tracks, as well as preparing in-service teachers for endorsements in ESL, reading, middle school, special education, and talented and gifted. More than 500 teachers from across the state of Iowa enroll in Morningside’s graduate courses each year.