The language of education

The Spanish-speaking population in Iowa has skyrocketed in recent years, growing by 52 percent in the last decade. Even more notable is the change occurring in Iowa’s K–12 schools: In 2006, more than 28,000 Latinos were enrolled in Iowa schools, a 700 percent increase since 1986. The Drake University School of Education is doing its part to help fill the needs of this growing student population in the state.

Starting this summer, SOE will partner with Heartland Area Education Agency to offer an English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement program. Teachers from the Agency’s schools will take up to six classes as part of the one-year process.

“ESL is a high-need area in Iowa,” says Shelley Fairbairn, assistant professor of education. “Partnership goals include helping to make the program more accessible for practicing teachers and increasing our capacity across the state.”

Fairbairn oversees the ESL endorsement curriculum that has been in place at the SOE for a number of years. She has seen an increase in demand for the endorsement since she started at Drake six years ago. Each class typically has anywhere from 20–25 students consisting of pre-service teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as in-service teachers at the graduate level.

Heartland asked for proposals from area institutions to partner on offering the certification and chose Drake for the opportunity; the two organizations work together on a variety of other initiatives as well.

“This program is basically an extension of our long-standing partnership with Heartland,” says Fairbairn. “This is an opportunity for us to continue to contribute to the achievement of diverse learners in the state.”

Drake’s program emphasizes the ability to teach English to students from all cultures and linguistic backgrounds. Intercultural communication and differentiating instruction and assessment according to students’ individual English language proficiency levels are two important capabilities students learn at Drake, says Fairbairn. She co-authored a book in 2010 with Stephaney Jones-Vo, of Heartland Area Education Agency, Differentiating Instruction and Assessment for English Language Learners: A Guide for K–12 Teachers, which is used in Drake’s ESL curriculum and will be implemented in the Heartland courses as well.

“The School of Education prides itself on being very current and taking input from stakeholders into account in designing courses,” Fairbairn says. “In fact, one of our students who graduated with the ESL endorsement is working in Urbandale — her colleagues can’t believe how prepared she is.”

For more information on Drake’s ESL certification program, contact Graduate Admissions Coordinator Jared McCarty, jared.mccarty@drake.edu, 1-800-44-DRAKE x2552.

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