BEST Education Project to provide tuition-assisted training for teachers in Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford


Image:Anne CampbellFairfield University will train educators in four state cities to better teach English language learners (ELLs) and students with special education needs, thanks to a $1.4 million National Professional Development (NPD) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is one of the largest in Fairfield history.

Over the next five years, the BEST Education Project (Bilingual Education, Special Education and TESOL) aims to train about 55 practicing teachers in partner districts of Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford, districts that enroll more than 25 percent of all ELL students in the state. The project, which will begin in September, supports the state Department of Education's Priority School District Initiative for school improvement, as all four cities are considered high priority districts in need of academic support.

"Children with special needs require well educated teachers, as do children who are learning English in a school setting but speak another language at home," said the Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., senior vice president for academic affairs. "Fairfield University prides itself on educating educators to the highest level of professional competence, and the greatest commitment of heart, to serve those most in need of their talent and training. The BEST program will afford us an excellent opportunity to deepen our partnerships with local communities to bring best practices to these special populations."

The grant will provide tuition support for the required coursework and professional development activities to earn cross-endorsements in bilingual and/or special education, and/or as a teacher of English to speakers of other languages depending on the teacher's previous credentials. The project emphasizes scientific, research-based interventions and strategies and new technologies to help them best serve their students. "Since this grant project is designed solely for in-service teachers, accepted candidates will be able to readily implement their newfound knowledge in the classrooms in which they teach," said Anne Campbell, Ph.D., associate professor of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) & Bilingual/Multicultural Education.

Image: David ZeraDr. Campbell and her colleague David Zera, Ph.D., associate professor of Special Education, applied for the grant. They recently finished work associated with another five-year U.S. Department of Education grant to fund a similar project, Project SETTELL (Special Education Training for Teachers of English Language Learners). That project has graduated more than 30 teachers who are now certified to teach special education, bilingual education and/or TESOL.

The high monetary awards are given with good reason. A 2011 needs assessment showed a critical need for teachers with the knowledge and expertise to teach special and bilingual education in these school districts. Like Project SETTELL, the BEST Education Project will train candidates in consultation and collaboration, which will make them valuable resources not just in their own classrooms, but across their school districts.

"We want to provide candidates with a background in and knowledge of special education and bilingual education, which are identified as high needs areas in the state. Doing so will give them the roadmaps to identify and differentiate whether a student's problems are based in learning disabilities or learning English as a second language," Dr. Zera explained. "Dr. Campbell and I are excited about continuing our collaboration to train educators to meet the needs of many students in the state and that is a 'win-win' situation for everyone."

Susan Franzosa, dean, GSEAP, called the prestigious grant a tribute to her excellent faculty. "Dr. Campbell and Dr. Zera will now be able to continue and extend the teacher training project," she said. "This has been and will continue to be extremely important work. Connecticut, like most states, has a critical need for teachers who can meet the needs of bilingual children with special needs. Our schools, our teachers, our children, and our communities will be well served by the BEST Project."

Candidates in the BEST Education Project may choose from four program tracks, depending on their existing credentials. Bilingual general educators will be eligible for cross-endorsement in bilingual education or dual cross-endorsement in bilingual and special education. Monolingual general educators and special educators will be eligible for a cross-endorsement in TESOL.

For more information on the BEST Program, contact Dr. Campbell at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2873.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact: Meredith Guinness, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, mguinness@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 18, 2012

Vol. 44, No. 297