Academic Literacy Institute (ALI)

Teacher Development Grant 2017-2018 Project Summary

Ellen Guettler

Irving School • Bozeman, MT

The Academic Literacy Institute (ALI) is a three year project aimed at improving the instructional competencies of Bozeman School District teachers via intensive professional development to shift the ‘culture of instruction’ to better serve two identified district populations at risk: low income/low literacy English-only students and English Language Learners(ELLs), for whom English is not their primary language. This project will pay for release time for teachers and a nominal stipend for two project coordinators to formally train and offer ongoing feedback to teachers in their adoption of explicit vocabulary development, the implementation of both written and orally stated language and content lesson objectives, and the integration of research-based interactive academic language development activities/ strategies to ensure all students equitable access to content curriculum. Educators are on the front lines in addressing the low levels of student academic language literacy resulting from the phenomena of modern family life: both parents working full time, limited oral language acquisition in the home resulting from the economic pressure on families, and increased student screen time. Additionally, ELLs enrolled in the district need explicit sheltered instruction to acquire the academic vocabulary to succeed in school as well.

The project would be implemented with three cohorts of 30 teachers over three years. The first-year teacher cohort would receive two intensive full-day trainings on facilitating research based classroom instructional and oral language strategies for academic vocabulary development as well as monthly follow up coaching/lesson modeling with the program coordinators. Monthly site based cohort meetings to reflect and process new strategies successes and challenges will also be implemented. After year one, the model will be replicated with an additional 30 new teachers receiving two full-day trainings and in-class support, and they will join the first cohort at site-based monthly meetings. The same model will be replicated year three with the goal of identifying top teachers from the first cohort to become leads at their school site to ensure program growth capacity and sustainability once the grant funding is gone. The academic success of our student populations depends upon supporting a shift in the culture of instruction to ensure that academic language structures as well as abstract critical thinking vocabulary (Tier II) and the content specific vocabulary (Tier III) are explicitly taught. In doing so, students will have the tools they need to successfully engage in the rigorous academic tasks presented by the core content standards and be well prepared for college and career pursuits.

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