FAU Awarded $1.8 Million Grant to Improve Pre-K English Proficiency

Florida Atlantic University’s College of Education in collaboration with the School District of Osceola County (SDOC) has received a $1.8 million grant from the United States Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) for a five year project titled “PRAISE, Preparing for Readiness and Academic Improvement for pre-School English Learners.” PRAISE is designed to improve the quality of instruction for English language learners and enhance educators’ ability to support preschool English language learners’ readiness for kindergarten. FAU is one of 44 institutions  nationwide selected to receive this grant in 2022.

“We are extremely proud and excited to receive this important U.S. Department of Education grant in collaboration with our partners at the School District of Osceola County,” said Stephan Silverman, Ed.D., dean of FAU’s College of Education. “PRAISE opens a new area of educational leadership for English as a second language and voluntary pre-kindergarten that could serve as an exemplar for Florida and the nation.”

PRAISE develops, implements and evaluates a yearlong professional development containing two sequential components: a four-day Summer Institute for Preschool Educators and School Leaders, and a monthly yearlong school readiness professional learning community that builds on the Summer Institute’s learning in which each school develops, implements and reinforces a pre-K student school readiness action plan.

Researchers in the College of Education will provide professional development to paraprofessionals in pre-K classrooms located within SDOC schools. PRAISE plans to engage approximately 192 educators from 24 elementary schools containing Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) programs, a free pre-K program for 4 year olds who reside in Florida. Professional development will directly benefit 1,223 preschool students, of which more than 60 percent are projected to receive English language learning services when they enter kindergarten.

Daniel Reyes-Guerra, Ph.D., associate professor in FAU’s Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology, is the principal investigator of PRAISE. Sabrina Sembiante, Ph.D., associate professor of TESOL and bilingual education in FAU’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction; and Maysaa Barakat, Ph.D., associate professor of educational leadership in FAU’s Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology, are serving as co-PIs of the project. 

FAU and SDOC professionals with expertise in pre-K language learning and school leadership will form the FAU-SDOC Taskforce, the governing body responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating the professional development components.  

According to the Florida Department of Education, the state is ranked third in the nation for English language learners’ population. Although Spanish is the major native language of these students, English language learners speak more than 300 different languages.

“English learners in Florida and our nation face significant obstacles,” said Reyes-Guerra. “Together with our partners at the School District of Osceola County, PRAISE will help to prepare young students to develop their English language and literacy skills as a foundation for their future academic success. The goal is to facilitate their language learning so that they are on equal footing with their peers when they enter the classroom. We not only want them to excel in academics, we want them to be able to harness their language resources to successfully socialize with their peers, teachers and others.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s OELA provides national leadership to help ensure that English learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and achieve academic success. In addition to preserving heritage languages and cultures, OELA is committed to prompting opportunities for biliteracy or multiliteracy skills for all students. OELA provides national leadership by informing policy decisions; administers discretionary grant programs such as the National Professional Development to prepare professionals for teaching and supporting English Learners; invests in research and evaluation studies that have practical applications for preparing English Learners to meet college and career learning standards; and disseminates information about educational research, practices and policies for English learners through its National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition. 

– FAU –

About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students across six campuses located along the southeast Florida coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research expenditures and outpaced its peers in student achievement rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional achievement gaps vanish. FAU is designated a Hispanic-serving institution, ranked as a top public university by U.S. News & World Report and a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.