The University of North Carolina at Pembroke received a $266,962 NC QUEST grant to improve the quality of instruction for students with disabilities and for students in English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. The goal is to train teachers and school leadership.
The 18-month grant program, called Strategic Teaming for Inclusive Learning Environments (STILE), is a joint project of UNCP’s School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences and Hoke and Scotland county schools.
There are two concentrations.
The focus in Hoke County is the growing number of Spanish speaking students, and in Scotland County, it is students with learning disabilities. Jose Gomez, Spanish instructor and coordinator of UNCP’s English Education program, and Dr. Zoe Locklear, dean of the School of Education, worked on the grant proposal.
“We are very excited about the quality of professional development activities this grant will allow the departments of education and languages to deliver to teachers in Hoke and Scotland counties,” Dr. Locklear said. “Also, we fully expect to replicate this model so that we are able to serve teachers throughout the region.”
Professor Gomez said the overall goal for STILE is to increase the capacity of teachers from Hoke and Scotland schools to raise achievement and reduce gaps of two important segments of the school populations: English Language Learners and Exceptional Children.
“The project springs from the specific needs of school systems in two counties,” Gomez said. “It is also driven by the need to train teachers in these areas.”
The partnership will train K-12 teachers in special education programs. Emphasis is on reducing teacher turnover licensure.
Hoke County reflects the explosive growth in the Hispanic population in North Carolina. Scurlock Elementary and East Hoke Middle schools currently represent almost half of the county's English Language Learners (ELL) population.
The school district identified professional development in Hispanic culture and heritage and language, as well as effective teaching and learning strategies.
Scotland County Schools identified teachers of exceptional children (EC) as its priority. Currently, the district is comprised of 14.8 percent EC students. Of the 84 EC teachers, almost 40 percent have not yet fulfilled the federal government's (No Child Left Behind) definition of a “highly qualified” teacher.
The partnership is planning intensive summer institutes and building learning teams. Eight professional teams, three in Hoke and five in Scotland, will be joined by eight UNCP students in the pre-service teacher internship program.
Over 400 students of the participating teachers and team mentors will directly benefit. A comprehensive follow-up is also planned, Gomez said.
“We have the highest expectations, and we will bring the results of this project to a national conference in the future,” Gomez said.