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Aides, paraprofessionals on track to become teachers via Cleveland’s Project ELEVATE

Increasing the number of classroom-ready teachers to work with English learners in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is the aim of Project ELEVATE. Developed by educators from Cleveland State University, working with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Project ELEVATE will be funded by a nearly $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The Cleveland State professor – Elena Andrei, associate professor in the Teacher Education Department; Tachelle Banks, presidential faculty fellow and associate provost for academic innovation, Office of the President; and Debbie Jackson, chairperson and professor in the Teacher Education Department alongside José González, executive director of the Multilingual Multicultural Education Office of Cleveland schools to create and implement the project. To find out more about Project ELEVATE, we contacted Dr. Andrei for details:

Q: What prompted creation of your Project ELEVATE initiative?

A: Cleveland State University (CSU) and Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) have been awarded a National Professional Development grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Project ELEVATE is part of a long-term collaboration between CSU and CMSD. CSU and CMSD share the goal of creating innovative ways to support the development of high quality teachers who are classroom ready.​

Elena Andrei, Associate professor in the Teacher Education Department Tachelle Banks, Presidential faculty fellow and associate provost for academic innovation, Office of the President Debbie Jackson, Chairperson and professor in the Teacher Education Department

Q: What are the goals of the initiative and how will it work?

A: Project ELEVATE will improve classroom instruction for English learners (ELs) and assist educational personnel working with such children to meet high professional standards.

Goals of Project ELEVATE:

  • Train 2.5 master’s cohorts of 15 pre-service teachers each to obtain dual K-5 and ECIS (Early
    Childhood Intervention Specialist) initial licensure and the Ohio TESOL (Teaching English as a second or foreign language) Endorsement (total = 45). More information about the Dual Resident Education Program: DREAM master’s program can be found at https://cehs.csuohio.edu/te/dual-resident-education-program-dream-program. Cohorts are comprised of enrolled preservice teachers and bilingual aides, paraprofessionals and non-certified teaching personnel from CMSD. 
  • Forty-five individuals from DREAM master’s Cohorts 1 and 2 will create educational training materials and share them with parents.
  • Provide an opportunity for 85 in-service CMSD K-12 teachers to earn the Ohio TESOL Endorsement.
  • Include professional development for 85 in-service CMSD K-12 teachers in the TESOL Endorsement program specifically around teaching vocabulary to English language learners and administer pre- and post-tests for students in their classrooms to demonstrate vocabulary knowledge growth. 
  • Provide opportunities for 60 parents/families at CMSD’s Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy in evidence-based strategies for promoting literacy at home (3 groups of 20 families). 

The curriculum for the DREAM master’s program has been developed over two years as part of a curriculum development grant from the Ohio Deans Compact led by Tachelle Banks and Elena Andrei. The curriculum was developed in collaboration with university and school-based professionals with expertise in early childhood education, special education and TESOL.

DREAM is a unique program – a dual license program (PK-5 and Early Childhood Intervention Specialist) with a TESOL Endorsement. All three areas (PK-5, Early Childhood Intervention Specialist and TESOL) are integrated throughout the two year curriculum.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on bilingual aides, paraprofessionals and non-certified teaching personnel from Cleveland schools?

A: We know that bilingual aides, paraprofessionals and non-certified teaching personnel from Cleveland schools are dedicated to their profession and to the schools, and some of them would like to be in the role of a classroom teacher. There was a survey sent to these educators, and a large majority of them expressed interest in continuing their education. We designed a program of study that integrated multiple licensure areas in an effort to meet the needs of the district and took into account the needs of the current CMSD employees.

Q: Can you estimate the number of students who will be impacted by Project ELEVATE?

A: Forty-five pre-service teachers will go through the DREAM program, and 85 in-service CMSD K-12 teachers will obtain the Ohio TESOL Endorsement.

If each teacher will teach 30 students in their first year after graduation, you will have at least 3,900 students who will have a qualified teacher per year.

Q: How will training additional teachers in TESOL provide support for students?

A: Content area and classroom teachers are responsible for and teach all the students in their classes. If teachers are trained in TESOL, they will know how to better support their English learners.

Q: There’s direct support for families in the program. Can you describe that support? 

A: Sixty parents/families at CMSD’s Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy will be trained in evidence-based strategies for promoting literacy at home. In addition, preservice teachers in the DREAM program will learn, develop and teach parents about evidence-based strategies for promoting literacy at home (e.g., Talking While You Read; When I Read to You/When You Read to Me) as part of one of their courses.

Q: Is there a STEM component in this initiative?

A: Forty-five pre-service teachers who will go through the DREAM program will be learning to teach science and mathematics as part of their P-5 licensure.

Q: As to your successful proposal to gain federal funding, what tips would you have for other educators who might be trying to write such a proposal?

A: This effort is a true collaboration; professionals from CSU and CMSD both have knowledge bases which are respected and valued by all. In addition, the district has a need for high quality teachers and CSU has the ability to design programs to assist with the shortage. The collaborative nature of this partnership was a strength in the proposal; it was evident that the collaboration was long lasting and sustainable over time. Further, we were innovative in planning to train both pre-service and in-service teachers who will work with students in the local school district, which meets a need for the district. Besides meeting the needs of the district and being collaborative, we were intentional about meeting the needs of both the pre-service and in-service teachers who are participating. The teachers are professionals with full time job responsibilities; the curriculum is rigorous and doable for full time employees.

For more information, please reach out to Elena Andrei at e.andrei@csuohio.edu.

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