Professional Development and Technical Assistance for University of Missouri-Kansas City and North Kansas City Schools: Project EXCELL (EXceptional Collaboration for English Language Learning)

CAL provided professional development and technical assistance focused on better preparing faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Education and teachers in North Kansas City Schools (NKCS) to provide effective instruction to English language learners for the federally funded 2007 National Professional Development Grant.

Project Background

In 2006, districts in the metropolitan Kansas City area were experiencing exponential growth in their English language learner populations. The Assistant Dean of UMKC’s School of Education at the time, Dr. Ginny Miller, recognized this and was aware that faculty at the School of Education were not specifically preparing prospective teachers to meet the needs of English learners. At the same time, the ELL population in North Kansas City Schools was growing at a rate of approximately 20% per year. The district had also recently implemented an all site-based ELL service delivery model, which meant that every teacher could potentially have an ELL in his or her classroom. Very few of these teachers were prepared to address the linguistic and cultural needs of the English learners in their classrooms.

Dr. Miller approached Dr. Tom Cummings, NKCS superintendent at the time, with the idea of partnering on a 2007 National Professional Development Grant. After Dr. Cummings gave his blessing, Dr. Miller contacted Laura Lukens, the newly appointed ELL Program Coordinator of the district. Laura suggested they contact CAL for technical assistance on the project proposal.

In July of 2007, UMKC and NKCS were awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education-Office of English Language Acquisition to fund extensive professional development at the UMKC School of Education and in North Kansas City Schools.

Project Goals

Three goals were established for the project:

  • To improve UMKC’s teacher education programs in order to better prepare all faculty and teachers to provide effective instruction to LEP students.
  • To improve the effectiveness of educational personnel working with LEP students in NKCS through high-quality professional development.
  • To improve LEP students’ academic achievement and English language acquisition.

Project Team

To accomplish these goals, a dedicated team of experienced professionals from CAL, UMKC, and NKCS worked on designing and delivering coursework, professional development, curriculum, syllabus revision, and training modules.

Dr. Susan Adler, Project EXCELL Co-Director and Principal Investigator, and Laura Lukens, NKCS ELL Program Coordinator, led the team. Upon Dr. Adler’s retirement mid-project, Dr. Rita Barger became the Co-Director and Principal Investigator for UMKC. Other major contributors to Project EXCELL include Rene Cooper, NKCS Project EXCELL Facilitator, Dr. Gary Hargett, External Grant Evaluator, Dr. Ginny Miller, former Assistant Dean of the School of Education, UMKC, Nancy Clemens, former Director of Staff Development, NKCS.

CAL’s team was led by Dr. Betty Ansin Smallwood, former Director of CAL Solutions PreK-12 ELL Education, and now CAL senior fellow. CAL staff and consultants who delivered professional development and coursework during the project: Lois Huffman, Dotti Kauffman, Linda New Levine, Judith O’Loughlin, Cheryl Serrano, Ari Sherris, and Betty Ansin Smallwood.

Project Objectives, Activities, and Outcomes - University of Missouri-Kansas City

The project outlined the following objectives to better prepare all faculty and teachers to provide effective instruction to LEP students at UMKC:

  • Faculty participation in PD related to best practices for LEP students
  • Incorporation of ELL strategies and concepts into instruction
  • Syllabus revision to reflect ELL content and strategies
  • Course development and revision

The following activities were implemented at UMKC to meet the objectives:

  • CAL Seminars on principles of sheltered instruction
  • “Multicultural Wednesdays” - informal presentations on topics of interest
  • Syllabus revision template and technical assistance
  • Development of new endorsement sequence graduate courses
  • “Language Leaders” - faculty advisory group

Outcomes of project work at UMKC:

  • Over 90% of Teacher Education and Division of Curriculum and Instruction syllabi were revised to include ELL content and strategies
  • Seven graduate courses were developed for Missouri certification in English for Speakers of Other Languages. These courses were delivered to four cohorts of NKCS teachers over the life of the grant.

Project Objectives, Activities, and Outcomes - North Kansas City Schools

In North Kansas City Schools, the overarching goal of the project was to positively impact ELL student achievement. This was accomplished by an innovative three-tiered professional development plan outlined below.

Three-tiered Professional Development Plan

Tier 1: District-wide ELL Professional Development
Delivered by an intensively trained cadre of 12 ELL “Master Trainers”. These teachers worked with district PD specialists to infuse ELL content and strategies into district professional development. ELL Master Trainers also developed and delivered Professional Growth courses, courses for Summer Professional Development Academy, and a menu of ELL training modules for specific needs in buildings.

Tier 2: 15 ELL Building Teams
Consisting of an administrator, an ELL teacher, and two to three other teachers or school personnel were trained on strategies to address the ELL student achievement needs in their buildings. Teams received intensive training on elementary or secondary methods of teaching English to speakers of other languages, including differentiating instruction for ELLs, sheltered content instruction, assessment of ELLs, and cultural considerations. Teams also received ongoing consultation and support from the Project EXCELL Facilitator on LEP data analysis and development of School Improvement Plan goals for improving educational outcomes for ELLs in each building.

Tier 3: On-Site ESOL Certification Program
Fifteen NKCS teachers per year (60 total) were chosen to go through the seven graduate course sequence developed specifically for Project EXCELL leading to Missouri certification in ESOL Courses were developed with the needs of NKCS ELLs and teachers in mind, with a practitioner orientation throughout. CAL’s Five Principles of Sheltered Instruction were interwoven throughout all the coursework. Project EXCELL paid all costs, and courses were offered at district locations at night or during the day with subs provided. Instructors were NKCS personnel who were UMKC Adjuncts or CAL Consultants.

Fifty-nine (out of 60 teachers) completed the 21-credit graduate program and earned Missouri ESOL certification. Five of these teachers are now ELL teachers in NKCS. The others work with ELLs in their general education classrooms.

Other outcomes of project work in NKCS:

  • A comprehensive K-12 ELL curriculum was developed and written.
  • Scores for the ELL subgroup on federal and state accountability measures are being met and/or improved.  For example, federal Annual Measureable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) 1 and 2 are being met consistently in the district.  And scores on the state assessment – Missouri Achievement Program (MAP) in Communication Arts and Math are improving steadily.
  • Increasing numbers of students are transitioning out of the ELL program into the general education setting each year.
  • The GO TO Strategies project was developed and disseminated. Training modules were delivered in various venues.