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Professional Development School Program Links with George Washington University to Address Needs of Linguistically Diverse Students

March 21, 2000
The Professional Development School (PDS) pilot program at Kemp Mill Elementary School is a joint project of Montgomery County Public Schools and George Washington University (GWU) designed to train teachers in how best to help young English language learners succeed in school. An important element of the model program also includes parents as part of the educational support system for young children.

The PDS responds to the need to provide developmentally appropriate language learning experiences for Montgomery County's ever-increasing number of English Language Learners (ELL) in the early stages of their education. The teacher preparation provided by the pilot program will enhance the skills of all teachers involved in the education and service delivery to ELL students in the primary grades. This across-discipline collaboration includes regular education, English as a Second Language, special education, and bilingual education teachers.

The program, designed to make it is as easy as possible for busy teachers to obtain this specialized training, provides classes taught by GWU professors on-site at Kemp Mill Elementary School. The graduate-level courses count towards a master's degree in curriculum and instruction with certification in both English as a Second Language and bilingual special education.

Concurrently, graduate students in education who are enrolled at GWU have an opportunity to intern in classrooms at Kemp Mill Elementary School. In a classroom setting, these students can extend their knowledge of language development theory, curriculum development and developmentally appropriate instructional practices.

Action research is a central feature of the program, involving veteran teachers and interns working together to identify unique issues in teaching young ELL students, both from classroom experience and pedagogical resources. Teachers and interns are using this information to design and adapt teaching materials and techniques to meet the needs of their culturally and linguistically diverse students. As ways of addressing the needs of young ELL students are implemented in the classroom setting, the most effective practices will be disseminated to other schools and school systems.

Another important feature of the program is that it reaches out to parents and draws them into the education process. A family literacy center being developed at the school will include training for parents in early literacy development.

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