NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is making sure its students are prepared to teach individuals who are learning to speak English.
Nashville is home to the largest share of “English Learners” (ELs) in the state, about 15 percent of its 86,000 students, according to the most recent data.
A National Public Radio report recently found that ELs are often concentrated in low-performing schools with untrained or poorly trained teachers. In 2016, Tennessee was among 32 states that reported not having enough teachers for EL students.
To address the issue, TSU has revised its curriculum so that teachers are better prepared to teach ELs.
“There are many ELs in the system right now,” said Dr. Heraldo Richards, associate dean of the College of Education at TSU, and director of teacher education. “So we need to make sure that our teachers are prepared to address the needs of these individuals who are populating our school system.”
Dr. Kisha Bryan, an assistant professor in TSU’s Department of Teaching and Learning, has led the effort to better prepare teachers.
“Our shared goal has always been to prepare highly qualified teachers to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population,” said Bryan.
Dr. Clara Young, chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning, said she talked to one Nashville principal who said about 80 percent of the students at her school are ELs.
Young said changes to the curriculum include infusing “foundational issues” to more closely consider when working with an EL student. For instance, checking to see if someone in the family speaks English, she said.
“You need to see their background, how this will help you figure out how you can help those students,” said Young.
TSU has remained a major supplier of well-trained teachers not only for the Davidson County and Metro Nashville Public Schools, but school districts across the nation.
Last year, TSU was one of four institutions in the state to receive a Tennessee Innovation in Preparation award, or TIP.
TIP grants, awarded by the Tennessee Department of Education, are designed to support an increase in the development of a diverse educator workforce, an increase in the production of educators in high-demand licensure areas, and promote collaboration to improve educator preparation in literacy.
TSU and the other three winning institutions, all designated Education Preparation Programs, equally split $200,000 to design and implement individual projects to meet TIP requirements. About 70 percent of funding from the grant is being used to provide tuition waivers to teachers interested in teaching ELs.
A few months before it was awarded the TIP grant, TSU was ranked as the No. 1 producer of teachers among historically black colleges and universities in the nation. HBCU Lifestyle, which published the ranking, noted that TSU’s undergraduate and graduate offerings and concentrations in biology, chemistry and elementary education made the school’s teacher preparation program more attractive.
To learn more about TSU’s College of Education, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/coe/
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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.