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Endowed professor raises the bar on teaching English language learners

Bilingual Ed. scholar Maria Coady fills a prestigious endowed Fien professorship that allows her to expand her landmark multilingual studies aimed at helping at-risk English language learners at rural high-poverty schools.

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International group installs COE professor as president-elect

 

Ester de JongThe world’s largest organization of educators committed to advancing English language teaching for non-English speaking students has installed a UF College of Education professor and school director as its president-elect.

Ester de Jong, professor of ESOL/bilingual education and director of the college’s School of Teaching and Learning, has assumed the penultimate leadership post for TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Association and is on track to become the group’s president at the TESOL convention in Seattle in March 2017.

TESOL is a professional community of more than 12,500 members—educators, researchers, administrators and students—representing 156 countries.

“Teaching English to English learners involves many complex issues, with equity and access, technology use and multilingualism playing important roles,” de Jong said. “TESOL is in a unique position to advocate for professionalism in English teaching around the world that is responsive to these global trends.”

De Jong said she values the personal and professional opportunity her leadership role in TESOL offers as a forum for shaping and sharing the group’s important message.

“One of my goals is to raise awareness of the multilingual realities in which English teaching and learning takes place and how it contributes to developing bilingual multilingual competence for speakers from diverse backgrounds,” she said.

In addition to her UF appointment as STL director, de Jong continues to be involved in teaching and research projects related to language policy, bilingual education and mainstream teacher preparation for bilingual learners. In 2013 she received the Award for Excellence in Research on Bilingual Education from the National Association of Two-Way and Dual Language Education. She is widely published in peer-reviewed academic journals on bilingual and language education and policy and has published a book titled “Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: From Principles to Practice,” which focuses on working with multilingual children in K-12 schools.

De Jong also was the lead investigator on a recently completed, seven-year study, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, to assess and advance the teaching of English language learners in Florida’s public schools. She is currently a co-principal investigator on a Florida Department of Education grant involving the creation of a Center of Excellence in Elementary Teacher Preparation at UF’s College of Education.

De Jong has an Ed.D. in literacy, language and cultural studies from Boston University and joined the UF education faculty in 2001.


SOURCE: Ester de Jong, 352-273-4227 ; edejong@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER
: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;
llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

 

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UF awarded $2.7M for new center aiming to transform elementary teacher preparation

The revamped coursework and internship evaluations will place a heightened emphasis on data-driven decision-making and a forward-thinking instructional approach for classroom readiness.

The revamped coursework and internship evaluations will place a heightened emphasis on data-driven decision-making and a forward-thinking instructional approach for classroom readiness.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—With $2.7 million from the Florida Department of Education, the University of Florida College of Education is creating a new “center of excellence” to transform its nationally ranked elementary teacher preparation program—and several of Alachua County’s high-needs schools will serve as the effort’s proving ground.

The DOE has awarded three-year grant support to UF and three other Florida institutions to establish a Center of Excellence in Elementary Teacher Preparation at each campus, with the education schools partnering with their local school districts on the effort. The other are Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, St. Petersburg College and Stetson University in Deland.

“We know more than we have ever known about how to prepare new teachers for strong starts and long careers of positive impact on student achievement,” said Brian Dassler, Florida DOE deputy chancellor for educator quality. “The centers of excellence grants have been awarded to four pioneer programs that will not only produce outstanding elementary teachers for Florida’s classrooms, but also blaze a trail for improved teacher preparation in the entire state.”

According to Dassler, the centers will place heightened emphasis on preparing teachers to improve learning among historically underachieving students including those with disabilities, English language learners and students living in poverty. Each teacher prep program is tailoring its strategies to the needs of its partnering school district, he said.

In Alachua County, 12 elementary schools so far have agreed to host UF teachers-in-training for their yearlong internships and participate in the UF teacher prep reform project. They include Chiles Elementary, Hidden Oak, High Springs Community School and P.K. Yonge, plus eight of the district’s high-need, Title 1 schools: Alachua Elementary, Finley, Glen Springs, Lake Forest, Littlewood, Meadowbrook, Norton, and Terwilliger.

UF’s teacher prep reform effort is dubbed Project ADePT, short for Advancing the Development of Preservice Teachers. It calls for deepening student-teachers’ content knowledge of core subject areas, strengthening teaching and classroom management skills , and improving feedback to future teachers during their final-year internship.

UF is Florida’s top-rated elementary teacher education program — ranked 17th nationally in U.S. News & World Report’s latest survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools — and has a long history of progressive, research-based teacher preparation practices. UF was one of the first education colleges in the nation to unify its general and special education programs and extend it from four years to five. Students now complete a full-year internship in their final two semesters of Year 5 before graduating with a master’s degree in education.

“We have a long-standing tradition of continuous program evaluation and improvement. This grant affords opportunities for some really creative program enhancements that we couldn’t otherwise pursue,” said Ester de Jong, director of the UF education college’s School of Teaching and Learning.

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Co-researchers on the elementary education reform project are, from left, Ester de Jong, Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy and Suzanne Colvin.

De Jong is one of three UF co-researchers on the project, along with education professors Suzanne Colvin and Elizabeth Bondy, who is principal investigator.

Bondy said they are collaborating with subject area experts from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to revamp and expand the curriculum of UF’s Elementary ProTeach program so future teachers will gain a deeper knowledge of science, math, social studies and English language arts.

“One of the great opportunities to come from this grant is to restore social studies to its rightful place as a cornerstone of public education,” Bondy said. “With so much time now spent on preparing schoolchildren for standardized testing, social studies had fallen off the radar.”

UF teachers-in-training also will learn the latest, research-based approaches to instruction and classroom management and be supported by an innovative model of instructional coaching.

Bondy said the revamped coursework and internship evaluations will place a heightened emphasis on data-driven decision-making and a forward-thinking instructional approach for classroom readiness called Fast Start, which she said “will help our graduates start their first year as practicing teachers ready for the challenges ahead.”

New, Internet cloud-based video technology will allow school-based mentor teachers and UF-based supervisors to provide targeted commentary on the student teachers’ instructional practice down to the individual frame. Or, the students can study their own videos and share them confidentially with their peers on an online social platform designed just for them.

The college’s Lastinger Center for Learning, which designs and field-tests research-proven learning systems for school districts in several Florida counties and even in other countries, is adapting its instructional coaching model for UF’s elementary education reform project. Two school-based “professors-in-residence” from the college will serve as liasions between the public schools and the ProTeach program to help train the mentoring teachers and supervisors in the high-impact instructional and classroom management skills that the student-teachers will learn.

During the next two summers, UF content experts will conduct intensive, interdisciplinary workshops which combine subject area content knowledge and teaching practices for ProTeach students poised to start their final, year-long internships. Their mentoring teachers and college supervisors will also attend. The first workshop will integrate math, science, and technology.

“The redesign of our elementary education model will expand the pipeline of effective teachers locally and statewide,” Bondy said. “We’re particularly excited about strengthening our connections with the schools in east Gainesville.

“We’ll be better teacher educators when we understand the challenges and mandates that our public schools face. By providing higher quality interns and future teachers, we can have a dramatic impact on student learning.”

Everett Caudle, director of project and staff development for Alachua County Public Schools, said partnering with UF on its teacher prep reform project “holds great promise for preparing classroom-ready beginning teachers.”

He said the Alachua County teachers hosting the student-teachers also will benefit: “By fine-tuning their skills as student mentors and instructional coaches, they will become more aware and critical of their own instruction.”


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Elizabeth Bondy, UF College of Education; 352-273-4242; bondy@coe.ufl.edu
   SOURCE: Ester de Jong, UF College of Education; 352-273-4227; edejong@coe.ufl.edu
   SOURCE: Jackie Johnson, School Board of Alachua County; 352-955-7880;  jackie.johnson@gm.sbac.edu
   WRITER/MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Smooth leadership transition for School of Teaching and Learning

The University of Florida College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning, the hub of teacher preparation and K-12 educator advancement at UF, is undergoing a smooth change in leadership, with the former STL director working closely with her successor to ensure a seamless transition.

The college has hired one of its own, Ester de Jong, an associate professor of ESOL/bilingual education, to succeed Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy, who has directed STL since 2008. Bondy stepped down May 16 after six challenging but fruitful years at the helm to return, full time, to her role as professor in the school’s curriculum, teaching and teacher education program.

“It is gratifying how Dr. Bondy and Dr. de Jong have worked together during this transition,” said Dean Glenn Good. “Ester should continue the tradition of excellence that the leadership of the School of Teaching and Learning is known for. Our faculty and their students are sure to flourish under her guidance. 

De Jong said her first priority as the new director “is to maintain the positive and collaborative culture in our school. I hope to support faculty in creative ways so they can be at the cutting edge in their areas of expertise locally, nationally and internationally.

Ester de Jong

Ester de Jong

“Together we can shape not only theoretical understandings about teaching and learning, but also policy and practice, particularly as it is unfolding for diverse learners.”

De Jong, who has an Ed.D. in literacy, language and cultural studies from Boston University, joined the UF education faculty in 2001. She is in the final year of a three-year term as the college’s B.O. Smith Research Professorship, which supports her study of teachers’ use and modeling of academic vocabulary and specific language structures into students’ oral language use.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in language and literature studies from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, her native country. From 1996-2001, she was the assistant bilingual director for Framingham Public Schools near Boston, and also taught as a lecturer at nearby Harvard University and Simmons College.

Her Framingham district administrator job is one of several leadership posts she has held. At UF, she has headed STL’s ESOL/bilingual academic program, served as principal investigator on several federal and foundation research grants, and chaired the college’s 2013-14 Faculty Policy Council. She also served on the board of directors for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association and was a member of a Florida Department of Education review panel for the state ESOL teacher exam.

Her  research interests include language policy, bilingual education and mainstream teacher preparation for bilingual learners. Last year, de Jong received the Award for Excellence in Research on Bilingual Education from the national Association of Two-Way and Dual Language Education (ATDLE). 

She is the lead investigator on one of the college’s most ambitious research efforts called Project DELTA (Developing English Language and Literacy through Teacher Achievement). It’s a seven-year, $1.2 million undertaking funded by the U.S. Department of Education to assess and advance the teaching of English language learners in Florida’s public schools.

De Jong published a book in 2011 titled “Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: From Principles to Practice” (Caslon Publishing), which focuses on working with multilingual children in K-12 schools. She is widely published and has served in editorial posts for several peer-review journals on bilingual and language education and policy. 

WATCH THE VIDEO: Message from Ester de Jong, the new director of STL

Bondy: now is ‘right time’ for change

Elizabeth "Buffy" Bondy

Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy

After six years as STL director, Buffy Bondy said “it just feels like the right time” to make way for a new leader.

“My title has been both STL director and professor, but I haven’t been able to contribute as much as I should on the professor side,” Bondy said. “I want to do a better job as a professor, and that is what I really love.”

Bondy received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from UF in 1984, worked at the College of Education as a visiting or adjunct instructor for five years, and joined the curriculum and instriuction faculty as an assistant professor in 1989. In 2008, she replaced Tom Dana as STL director when Dana became the college’s associate dean for academic affairs. Working with then-Dean Catherine Emihovich and her executive team, Bondy guided STL through the lion’s share of seven consecutive years of severe cuts in state spending on higher education.

From the start, Bondy said her focus was to create conditions favorable for STL faculty members and their students to excel. She continued to nurture the caring and collegial social climate that she had come to appreciate during her years on the faculty.

“Responding to the financial crisis, we’ve had to work in new ways and find new streams of revenue,” Bondy said. “Our goal has been smart programming, brilliant research and improved service.”

It took joint efforts between the dean’s office, the STL faculty and the school’s strategic collaborations with the Lastinger Center for Learning for both the school and the college to not only survive, but thrive.

During Bondy’s tenure as director, STL became a major player in the college’s expanding distance learning enterprise. Some of the new offerings in e-learning include an online M.Ed. program in language and literacy education and online doctorates in both education technology and in curriculum, teaching and teacher education. The blended Teacher Leadership for School Improvement degree has been named the nation’s top teacher education program by the Association of Teacher Educators.

Other advances while Bondy was on watch include shifting to a yearlong internship for ProTeach students and forging a multi-pronged partnership with Nanjing Xioazhuang University in China.

Bondy also garnered funding for vital building improvements in vintage Norman Hall, designed to group faculty members with common research interests together. These include renovated space in the Education Library basement for computer labs and offices for education technology faculty, and for new offices and work stations for STEM education faculty and doctoral students. She also added new infrastructure to help faculty researchers’ efforts to secure outside funding.

Bondy, who plans to take a one-semester sabbatical in spring of 2015, said she expects faculty and students in the School of Teaching and Learning to prosper under de Jong’s leadership.

“It is time for new ideas,” Bondy said. “Ester is extremely capable and a very quick study. She’s a top scholar, has strong leadership qualities and brings tremendous energy and enthusiasm to the job.”


CONTACTS
   SOURCE: Ester de Jong, UF College of Education, edejong@coe.ufl.edu
   SOURCE: Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy, UF College of Education, bondy@coe.ufl.edu
   WRITER:  Larry Lansford, news and communications office, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE SUN: Project Delta–Ester de Jong & Maria Coady

Gainesville Sun
3-24-14
Project DELTA, UF researchers seek to change ESOL education
UF researchers Ester de Jong and Maria Coady were quoted in a Gainesville Sun article about the link between UF’s elementary teacher preparation program and ESOL students’ achievement in the classroom and on the FCAT. The number of non-English speaking students placed in mainstream classrooms in Florida rises each year, and the way teachers-in-training learn to educate those students could be changing.

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7-year study aims to boost teaching of state’s English language learners

After $1 million, six years, and data from more than 24,000 elementary school teachers and 72,000 students, three University of Florida education researchers are close to completing a project that could transform the way teachers-in-training prepare to teach Florida schoolchildren whose primary language is not English. 

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Bilingual education professor Maria Coady (left) and UF video production specialist Emily O’Hearn edit case study videos for the new ESOL-infused curriculum that was developed as a result of Project DELTA’s findings. (Photos courtesy of UF College of Journalism and Communications)

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education awarded almost $1.2 million to UF bilingual education professors Maria Coady, Ester de Jong and Candace Harper for Project DELTA, which stands for Developing English Language and Literacy through Teacher Achievement. Since then, the researchers have been assessing the effects that graduates from UF’s elementary teacher preparation program, called ProTeach, are having on their second language learners.

Now, they are using their findings to ensure that Florida’s future teachers are adequately prepared to teach the state’s growing population of ESOL (English to speakers of other languages) students. The study will run through June 2014.

The researchers will travel to Washington, D.C. to present their research Jan. 29 to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition, which funded the project. 

The researchers are comparing the academic performance of elementary school second-language students taught by College of Education graduates with that of ESOL students taught by non-UF teachers. By analyzing these numbers, as well as data from surveys and participating teacher-graduates, the team discovered that teachers prepared through ProTeach have a positive effect on the reading and mathematics achievement of the English language learners in their mainstream classrooms. 

The College of Education’s elementary teacher prep program lasts five years, and its graduates earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree plus an ESOL endorsement by the state of Florida. The ProTeach curriculum infuses second language learning and teaching theory into their general education classes such as reading and science instruction. 

“Florida has had the requirement for ESOL endorsement for initial teacher preparation in place since 2001, yet there is little research on what ESOL infusion is or what impact it has on learning,” said de Jong, the project’s principal investigator “Our study aims to fill this gap.” 

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The Project DELTA team is composed of (from left to right) Candace Harper, Ester de Jong and Maria Coady, bilingual education professors at UF’s College of Education.

Despite the positive implications of the data, the surveys and case studies revealed that, although UF graduates feel confident about using visuals for their second-language students and ensuring that all students feel comfortable in the classroom, they are still wary of teaching language-specific instruction, which involves explicit lessons on grammar and other fundamental language principles. 

“Most of our students are monolingual and many haven’t had the experience of learning a second language beyond their high school foreign language classes, so showing them how language plays a role in the classroom can be challenging,” de Jong said. 

With this new information, the research team seeks to transform the College of Education’s ESOL curriculum so elementary teacher-candidates will have more in-class opportunities to practice second language teaching strategies. 

The revised curriculum also shows education students how teaching materials in mainstream subject areas can be modified for English learners. According to de Jong, the traditional curriculum focused more on ESOL-specific materials, but this new change will help teachers-in-training “think about taking the mainstream content they will be teaching and making adaptations accordingly.” 

“Because they are mainstream teachers, they have to contend with mainstream materials, but through this ESOL infusion model, we give them real tools to be critical of those materials and make sound decisions for second language learners,” de Jong said. 

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As part of Project Delta, the researchers produced a video featuring Kim Cook pictured on computer monitor), who was selected as a model teacher for the ESOL case study videos.

Co-researcher Maria Coady is producing two case study videos for the new curriculum. The videos feature UF alumnae Kim Cook and Sasha Abreu as model teachers, chosen for their “exemplary teaching of English language learning students,” Coady said. The videos showcase examples of grouping strategies, literacy instruction, ESOL strategies, communication with parents of English learners, and the use of multicultural literature in mainstream elementary classrooms. 

De Jong said they plan on showing the videos to UF elementary education students and also offering them online as instructional resources. 

“We hope these videos and the accompanying guide will be useful for teacher-educators across the state and nation,” Coady said. “We also believe they are useful products to guide state and national policies on teacher education and English language teaching and learning.” 

In the project’s final year, the researchers are poised to test and evaluate their ESOL infusion model within UF’s elementary education program by observing and tracking the influence of the experimental curriculum on teacher effectiveness and student achievement and acquiring feedback from the course instructors. 

“Improving teacher preparation for English language learners is important, as the number of bilingual students who are placed in mainstream classrooms continues to increase,” de Jong said. “Developments such as Common Core Standards make it even more imperative that teachers understand their ESOL students and develop the knowledge and skills to ensure equal access to a high-quality curriculum for these students.”


CONTACTS
SOURCE: Ester de Jong, associate professor of bilingual education, edejong@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4227
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications office, UF College of Education
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications office, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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COE researchers out in force at AERA’s massive annual meeting

(Click here for PDF listing of UFCOE presentations)

For years, the massive annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association has been a hotbed of the latest research and new ideas about teaching-and-learning practices and policies. This year, some 65 UF College of Education faculty and students participated in the 2013 meeting April 27-May 1 in San Francisco, joining 14,000 other education scholars from 75 nations. 

This year’s meeting theme focused on the relationships of education and poverty—how education theory, research, policy and praxis contribute to alleviating economic, intellectual and moral poverty.

Mirka Koro-Ljungberg...4 AERA presentations

Mirka Koro-Ljungberg              …4 AERA presentations

More UF education scholars, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The EduGator contingent in San Francisco included 34 college faculty and 31 graduate students participating in presentations, panel discussions and association-related business meetings.

The UF presentations included hot education topics such as:

  • The effect of charter schools on student achievement
  • How neighborhoods contribute to children’s language and literacy development
  • Games and simulation courses in education technology
  • Analyzing the urban middle school transition and persistently disciplined students
  • Does teacher preparation for English Language Learners matter?
  • Leadership standards and accountability in Florida: Do they address poverty and social justice issues?
  • Supply and demand context for special-education teacher preparation reform
  • Writing instruction: What do preservice teachers know?

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite and Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (both from research and evaluation methods), with four presentations each. Mary Brownell (special education), Ester de Jong (ESOL/bilingual education), Bernie Oliver (education leadership) and Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology) each made three presentations.

The complete AERA annual meeting program is available online at www.aera.net

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WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Smith Professorship study will benefit English language learners

Elementary school students learning English as a second language will benefit from groundbreaking research by University of Florida education professor Ester de Jong, in new studies supported by her recent appointment to the College of Education’s prestigious B. O. Smith Research Professorship.

While occupying the three-year post, de Jong will investigate ways that elementary teachers can best help young English language learners (ELLs) bridge the language gap in order to succeed in school. Her research focuses not on conversational English but on the “academic language”—the language of school, textbooks and testing—that is vital to school success. 

The B.O. Smith endowed professorship supports new, cutting-edge research of promising education faculty who are preparing to go up for full professor. It carries the potential for $3,000 annually in research funding and a $5,000 yearly salary stipend, renewed year to year based on research progress, for a total award package of $24,000. Appointments last three years and are staggered so a new professorship is awarded annually.

Cynthia Griffin in special education is the other current B.O. Smith Professor. The professorship’s namesake is a former UF education faculty member in curriculum and instruction.

de Jong, an associate professor in bilingual and ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) education, said mastering academic language proficiency is essential for all students, but especially for bilingual learners still acquiring English. She said their learning is best supported when teachers purposefully develop academic language.

 “Current research primarily focuses on academic language development at the secondary-level content areas. This study will take place in two partnering second-grade, dual language classes in a Duval County elementary school. Spanish is the language of instruction in one class and English in the other classroom,” said de Jong, a UF faculty member since 2001.

Recent studies show that more than a third of fourth-grade ELLs are behind their white peers in math and nearly half are behind in reading. More and more, researchers view ELL students’ lack of access to the development of academic language as a leading influence on academic achievement.

de Jong’s study will involve multiple teacher interviews and videotaped observations of teacher-student exchanges during classroom lessons in both Spanish and English.

“The findings,” de Jong said, “will contribute to our understanding of academic language in the classroom and will support effective professional development for teachers working with English language learners.”

de Jong, who speaks fluent Dutch, English and Spanish, is a nationally recognized authority in dual language education. She has published several research articles on the topic and is the sole author of the 2011 book, “Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: Principles to Practice.” She has an Ed.D. degree in literacy, language and cultural studies from Boston University.

 “Dr. de Jong’s research funded by the B.O. Smith Professorship addresses a major gap in the international literature on bilingual education,” said Elizabeth Bondy, director of UF’s School of Teaching and Learning. “Her findings will position her to be competitive for significant additional external funding and will enhance the professional development of teachers working with English language learners.”

de Jong in 2009 was awarded a College of Education Faculty Enhancement Opportunity grant worth more than $35,000 to fund activities to enhance her expertise in the research, policy and practice of teaching in multilingual contexts. She used her added expertise to build on her current $1.2 million study (with co-researchers Maria Coady and Candace Harper) examining teacher effectiveness with students in Florida schools who speak English as a second language.

The B.O. Smith study continues research conducted in 2009-2010 in a dual language school in Massachusetts, sponsored by a $40,000 Spencer Foundation research grant.


CONTACTS
  
SOURCE: Ester de Jong, associate professor, UF College of Education, 352-273-4227; email edejong@coe.ufl.edu 
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

EDUCATION WEEK: Ester de Jong

Education Week
5-23-12

Ester de Jong (ESOL/bilingual education)

ESOL/Bilingual Professor Ester de Jong was cited as an expert source in two articles – a news article and a blog, both by staff writer Leslie Maxwell – in the May 23 edition of Education Week, both offering comprehensive treatments of the accountability issues affecting English language learners (ELLs) and their schools. De Jong was quoted saying Florida’s school grading system should weigh the performance of English-learners on the FCAT, based on their proficiency levels.