Duke Student Project Aims to Improve K-12 Latino Students' English Skills

Led by their professors, a team of undergraduate students at Duke University is working on a project designed to enhance professional development for North Carolina elementary school teachers whose students lack essential English language skills.

The premise of the project, known as Developing Consultation and Collaboration Skills (DCCS), acknowledges that the most popular English as a Second Language (ESL) model in recent years has been the "pull-out" model, in which students are pulled out of their regular classes for additional English language instruction. The problem with that model, according to Assistant Research Professor Leslie Babinski of Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, is that students miss out on the classroom instruction others are receiving when they are pulled out.

At the same time, Babinski pointed out, the model ignores the fact that all students in kindergarten through second grade are language learners.

"Our idea was that you can leverage the work of what's happening in the regular classroom to support language learning," she said.

The DCCS professional development program, which was incorporated into four school districts — urban, suburban and rural — throughout North Carolina beginning in fall 2015, has four components:

  • A week-long Summer Institute for classroom teachers during which they can develop collaboration skills needed to increase the command of English for their students, incorporate Latino family culture into the classroom and learn about high-impact instructional skills;
  • Weekly collaboration meetings between ESL and classroom teachers;
  • On-site coaching sessions; and
  • Learning modules that the teachers can incorporate into their classrooms.

While it is too early to have data on the DCCS project's success, Babinski said, "It's really encouraging to see that people feel like they're getting a lot out of it."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.