COE grant sees positive results for teachers of English Learners

Several North Texas schools saw notable improvements in science and math test scores among English Learners (ELs) after their teachers participated in the UNT College of Education’s Title III National Professional Development Project NEXUS grant. The $985,000 grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education recently concluded a five-year run of providing professional development and learning opportunities on sheltered instruction and English Language Proficiency Standards for teachers of ELs at 14 Denton ISD and Lewisville ISD schools.  

The Project NEXUS grant was developed to help middle and high school math and science teachers to better reach English learners from multiple language backgrounds. Since its inception in 2012, the project has delivered professional development to 200 teachers.

Data from the Texas Education Agency show that at McMath Middle School in Denton ISD, one of the schools that participated in the EL teacher training at UNT, only 27 percent of ELs achieved “Satisfactory Standard” or “Above End of Course” in the science STAAR tests in 2013-14. That number is significantly lower than the 75 percent of all students at the campus. By 2015-16, the percentage of ELs achieving “Satisfactory Standard” or “Above End of Course” had increased to 65 percent, compared to 83 percent of all students.  

At Denton High School, another school that participated in EL training, the percentage of ELs who performed at “Satisfactory Standard” or “Above End of Course” in the math STAAR tests was 52 percent in 2013-14, compared to 76 percentage of all students at the campus. By 2016-17, the ELs percentage had risen to 65 percent, compared to 76 percent of all students at the campus.

Nexus faculty and staff
Pictured, from left, UNT students and pre-service teachers Jerónimo Figueroa and Ashley Denney, Region 10 ESC consultant Dr. Cynthia Jaird, and UNT student and pre-service teacher Chloe Hawkins-Decaire at the luncheon celebrating the conclusion of Project NEXUS.
 

Dr. Rossana Boyd, director of Project NEXUS and director of UNT’s Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education Program, said many factors have contributed to improved educational outcomes for ELs, and she’s proud that the professional development offered through Project NEXUS likely played a role.

“What these numbers show is that we’re helping narrow the achievement gap of English learners compared to all students by giving teachers additional knowledge, instructional skills and strategies to teach their subject matter in comprehensible ways that benefit ELs,” Boyd said. “We heard teachers say, ‘I’ve had English learners for years, but I didn’t know what to do for them.’ One of our goals was to help meet that challenge.”

In addition, the grant provided scholarship funding for three current teachers to earn their master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on ESL education; all three are graduating this fall.

“I wish all my colleagues could have had this experience,” said Britni Rowlett, a teacher in Lewisville ISD and one of the three master’s scholarship recipients. “Our students deserve the best we can give, and everyone in this program is working to make that possible.”

The grant also aimed to enhance the instructional skills of UNT students studying to become math and science teachers. It provided review sessions and reimbursements for students taking the TExES ESL Supplemental exam to add English as a Second Language (ESL) Education to their initial teacher certificate. Current UNT College of Education student Jerónimo Figueroa, who is studying for certification to teach mathematics in grades 4-8 with ESL, said the review sessions helped him prepare for life as an educator.  The grant also provided professional development to UNT Teach North Texas students who aspire to be grades 7-12 teachers, with the Region 10 Education Service Center serving as a partner.

“I’m an ESL student myself, and it was really helpful to see the time and commitment teachers put in to reach English Language Learners,” Figueroa said. “I feel like I’m very prepared for what to do with my lesson plans when I become a teacher.”

UNT students also received hands-on learning and networking opportunities by attending state and national conferences such as the National Association for Bilingual Education conference (NABE), the Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and UTeach at UT Austin. 

UNT is one of the top producers of bilingual teachers in the state. Of the 143 teacher preparation providers in Texas, UNT ranks third in certification of bilingual and ESL educators between 2012 and 2017.

“The statistics from the Texas Education Agency show that the UNT Department of Teacher Education and Administration is not only producing more bilingual and ESL teachers than most programs, but we’re also producing better educators for our growing population of English learners,” said Randy Bomer, dean of the UNT College of Education.

 

Narrowing the Achievement Gap of ELLs

Briton Hagan

Lecturer, Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation
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Physical Education Building 210-C
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940-565-3420
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Briton.Hagan@unt.edu

Andy Colombo-Dougovito

Assistant Professor, Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation
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Physical Education Building 209-J
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940-565-2069
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Andrew.Colombo-Dougovito@unt.edu

UNT researchers testing maple water for rehydration

Avid runners, cyclists and other active exercisers are always looking for a better way to stay hydrated. Now, faculty in the UNT College of Education are researching whether maple water may deserve a spot as the next big thing in post-workout rehydration.

Brian McFarlin, associate professor of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation and director of the UNT Applied Physiology Lab, is working with DRINKmaple, a Vermont-based company that collects pure sap from maple trees, then sterilizes and bottles it. The product tastes like water with a hint of maple flavor and is an excellent source of antioxidants, manganese, calcium and other nutrients with half the sugar of coconut water, said Kate Weiler, co-founder of DRINKmaple.

McFarlin and his team are trying to determine whether maple water can actually rehydrate better than regular H2O.

“Maple water is very high in electrolytes and very low in calories. The composition of it makes it almost the perfect rehydration drink,” he said.

For his preliminary research trial, McFarlin tested 10 participants who performed strenuous exercise in his lab’s heat chamber with the temperature set to a heat index of 175 degrees. The subjects exercised for 45 minutes without drinking, which caused them to become dehydrated. They repeated the trials twice — once with regular tap water and once with maple water. Blood, urine and weight measurements were taken to measure rehydration rates.

McFarlin said his preliminary data show that maple water hydrates two times faster than regular water, meaning that individuals were rehydrated at 30 minutes post exercise with maple water compared to 60 minutes post-exercise with regular water. He also knows first-hand the effects of maple water — in order to prepare the trial for test subjects, McFarlin did the dehydration-rehydration test himself, cycling on his stationary bike in the 175-degree heat chamber.

“I actually tested eight dehydration protocols before settling on the one used in this trial, because I didn’t want anybody else doing it until I was confident we would be able to obtain the exact result we were looking for,” he said.

Despite the grueling nature of the trial, McFarlin said he has a pool of willing test subjects who want to test their endurance in a safe and controlled environment. Now that the preliminary trial is complete, his lab is working with DRINKmaple to expand into a larger trial that will be conducted in 2018. The release of the larger trial results will coincide with a variety of race-related events in the first part of the year.

“We provide real-time monitoring of core temperature, heart rate and other assessments under the supervision of our expert research team and APL medical director so we can make sure our test subjects are OK,” McFarlin said. “A lot of the people will tell us they get some really valuable information, because they say, ‘I would have stopped at this point, but actually I realize I could have gone safely for a longer period of time.’ That’s a big part of competing – linking up when you are actually fatigued versus when you think you’re fatigued.

“We try to find something in every study we do that gives people useful information. Information is powerful, and if you know more about your health, you can make better decisions.”

McFarlin hopes his research will be published later in 2018.

 

Above and left, test subjects cycle in the UNT Applied Physiology Lab's heat chamber as part of Brian McFarlin's rehydration study.

LaKaavia Taylor

Senior Lecturer, Counseling and Higher Education
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Welch Street Complex 2 106
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940-565-2910
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LaKaavia.Taylor@unt.edu

Carla Clark

Administrative Coordinator, Office of Technology (COETech)
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Matthews Hall 208
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940-565-4110
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Carla.Clark@unt.edu

CHE chair recognized for life-saving book

Janice Holden, department chair and professor of counseling in the UNT College of Education's Department of Counseling and Higher Education, received a diploma from the Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth November 26 at the society's annual National Lifesaving Championships competition in Leeds, England.

The society conferred the diploma, a kind of certificate of recognition, for a book Holden co-authored with water safety expert Stathis Avramidis titled Near-Death Experiences While Drowning (available here: http://www.library.unt.edu/aquiline-books/nde-003-8). The primary purpose of the book is to educate water safety professionals about the possibility that someone they rescue from drowning may report a near-death experience, usually involving hyperlucid perception from a position apart from the physical body during circumstances in which no conscious experience would be expected, and about how to respond to such a disclosure in a way that helps and does not harm the rescued person.

The diploma reads, "For a high standard of knowledge of lifesaving values and for service in contributing to the development of the Society's aims and objectives."

The Royal Life Saving Society was founded in 1891 in London in response to the large number of drownings occurring at the time. It is a charity registered in the UK with the Charity Commission and is governed by Royal Charter.

 

Above: Pictured, from left, Stathis Avramidis, Janice Holden and RLSS UK President Ian Hutchings.

Alex Sanchez

Program Assistant for Initial Certification, Teacher Education and Administration
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Matthews Hall 204
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940-565-2826
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Alex.Sanchez@unt.edu

Kristina Leyden

Program Assistant for Curriculum and Instruction, Teacher Education and Administration
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Office: 
Matthews Hall 218
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940-565-2922
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Kristina.Leyden@unt.edu

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