School of Education Revolutionizes Ways to Teach English Language Learners

By UM News

School of Education Revolutionizes Ways to Teach English Language Learners

By UM News
Research shows students who participate in hands-on inquiry science instruction achieve higher scores on FCAT.
The P-SELL program, which stands for Promoting Science among English Language Learners, has been implemented for the past five years in six elementary schools in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Participating schools had a higher number of English language learners (ELLs) than the district average as well as a larger number of low-income students.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the P-SELL project created a third through fifth grade curriculum and prepared teachers to follow that curriculum which integrated classroom teaching with hands-on-experiments. Many teachers also integrated English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) methods in teaching science.

In 2004, the year prior to the implementation of P-SELL, third graders enrolled in P-SELL schools started out with FCAT scores in Math that were 7 points below those of third graders in comparison schools (which did not implement P-SELL). Over the next three years – while P-SELL was being implemented – third-grade students in P-SELL schools caught up and surpassed the comparison schools. In 2007, P-SELL third graders averaged a score of 306 on the FCAT Math; comparison third graders, 293.

“What this shows is that P-SELL works,’’ said Okhee Lee, a professor at the School of Education, who led the P-SELL study team. “Children become better learners when their teachers teach them not only to be hands-on, but also minds-on. That means they work like scientists. In a lab, they do hands-on work; but also, they measure and use math, and they write down their observations and conclusions.”

Similar gains were shown in fifth grade P-SELL students compared to non-P-SELL students. In 2006, before P-SELL was introduced, comparison students outperformed P-SELL fifth graders by 278 to 265 on the FCAT Science. Three years later, P-SELL fifth graders scored an average of 288 on the FCAT Science as compared to 283 for the comparison fifth graders.

“The consistency with which the P-SELL schools out-performed the comparison schools across the three-year period is compelling evidence of the positive impact on student achievement,” said UM Associate Professor Randall Penfield, a member of the P-SELL research team. “This level of consistency is rarely observed in school settings.”

“We hope to scale-up the program to larger numbers of schools, teachers and students,” said Walter Secada, Professor, P-SELL Associate Director and UM Senior Associate Dean for the School of Education. “This is a program that has succeeded here in our backyard and can help many communities throughout the nation.”

For more information about this project, please contactolee@miami.edu or visit the P-SELL web site:http://www.education.miami.edu/psell/