In all likelihood, you have witnessed firsthand the dramatic increase in the population of English Learners (ELs) over the past several years. In fact, according to national statistics,* nearly one in four children in the United States speaks a language other than English at home—in Connecticut alone, students speak a combined 175 different languages! Today, the National Education Association reports that 6 million ELs are currently enrolled in U.S. schools. The NEA Policy Brief predicts that by 2025, nearly 25 percent of students in public schools will be English Learners.

Creating a culture of shared responsibility

Unfortunately, schools are struggling to help their ELs perform at the same academic levels as their peers—and here in Connecticut, the disparities are among the widest in the nation.** One key reason?

Historically, the primary responsibility for educating bilingual learners has been placed on bilingual and ESL teachers, but as the population has grown and academic expectations have risen for everyone, this approach is clearly not working. Educators in Connecticut, as in many states, do have to fulfill a diversity requirement in order to receive initial certification, but this requirement can be met with as little as a 1-credit course. With the huge variation in language backgrounds, academic preparation, and life circumstances of EL students, many mainstream teachers have simply not been adequately prepared to educate this population. Many educators recognize this problem and wish to enhance their skills in working with ELs, but aren’t necessarily interested in becoming EL specialists by pursuing the TESOL or bilingual cross-endorsement. Likewise, many non-teaching school personnel, such as administrators, school psychologists, counselors, and nurses would like to strengthen their ability to work effectively with bilingual learners, but have not been able to find a pathway for doing so.

To help schools create cultures of shared responsibility for bilingual learners, and to respond to the professional learning needs of the vast majority of educators who simply want to become better equipped to support bilingual learners in their existing roles, the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut has launched the new UConn Educating Bilingual Learners Online Graduate Certificate program. This program gives educators like you a viable pathway to gain the necessary skills, knowledge, and strategies to navigate the complexities of teaching bilingual students. By earning this certificate, you’ll be prepared to:

  • Partner with students and their families
  • Tap into community resources
  • Implement effective instructional strategies to reduce the barriers to learning for your EL students, while at the same time inspiring their self-confidence and love of learning.

Here's how the Educating Bilingual Learners can support your career objectives.

The four courses in the graduate certificate were chosen as a middle ground for educators such as yourself, who want to continue working in the positions they love, but also want to enhance their capacity to support EL students more effectively. To provide the required breadth of information, we have designed the courses to focus on the four main areas central to effective instruction for bilingual learners: language acquisition, literacy development, multicultural competence, and effective pedagogy. While each course has a primary focus, they all also share common big ideas, such as the importance of valuing students’ home languages and cultural practices and incorporating them into classroom activities. Moreover, the four courses are all on the approved course lists for both the bilingual and TESOL cross-endorsements in Connecticut, thereby creating a pathway for participants who realize that they have a real passion for the topic to continue their studies and work towards one or both cross-endorsements. Many in-service teachers who are pursuing a Master’s or 6th year degree elect to do this. Courses include:

  • EDCI 5890 – Educational Linguistics
  • EDCI 5875 – Multicultural Education
  • EDCI 5742 – Sheltered Instruction
  • EDCI 5750 – Language Diversity and Literacy

Most importantly, once you have completed the program, you will be fully prepared to support bilingual learners in general education classrooms. You will become familiar with principles of language acquisition and learn to adapt instruction to make it understandable for students with varying levels of language proficiency. You’ll become much more aware of cultural differences and how they may impact student participation and parental involvement. You will also become better able to incorporate the many assets of bilingual learners, their families, and communities into your instructional activities.

Learn from the experts who drive the industry: The program was developed by one of the country’s leading experts in the education of bilingual learners, Program Director Elizabeth Howard. Dr. Howard, who has been a faculty member at UConn since 2006, earned her EdD in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has over 30 years of experience in the field as a bilingual and ESL teacher, teacher trainer, researcher, and program evaluator. Additional instructors include:

  • Michele Back, Assistant Professor, World Languages Education
  • Danielle Filipiak, Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction
  • Eileen González, PhD, Alum and adjunct professor from the University of Saint Joseph, Connecticut

Credits can be applied to a graduate degree at the Neag School of Education at UConn: The Neag School stands out as a major contributor to instructional and research excellence at the University of Connecticut, one of the nation’s leading public higher education institutions. Students in the Neag School may pursue a wide variety of academic programs offered at the Bachelor's, Master's, 6th year, and/or Doctoral degree levels. In addition, the Neag School offers all of the courses required for the Connecticut TESOL and bilingual cross-endorsements, so you could continue with your education at UConn, taking the courses you need to secure either or both cross-endorsements. You could also apply to The Graduate School at UConn to pursue a Master’s degree or 6th year Certificate in Curriculum and Instruction, incorporating the four courses from the Educating Bilingual Learners certificate into your graduate plan of study, as long as those courses have been taken within the past six years.

* According to an analysis of national data compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Center. (See link: * https://datacenter.kidscount.org/updates/show/184-the-number-of-bilingual-kids-in-america-continues-to-rise?utm_source=eblast&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=KIDS-COUNT

** (National Academies, 2017; Thomas, 2017).