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UAH wins $2.8M grant for teachers of English Learners

HUNTSVILLE – The University of Alabama in Huntsville has received a $2.8 million grant to help teach English to children in three local school districts.

Dr. Andrea Word-Allbritton, a clinical assistant professor in UAH’s College of Education, was awarded the five-year National Professional Development grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. The timely funding will help meet the rapid growth of English Learners (ELs) in the state – a student population that has nearly doubled since 2015.

“ELs face the challenge of completing double the work in school – striving not only to learn
content, but also the very medium through which knowledge and skills are conveyed in our
classrooms,” Word-Allbritton said. “Being able to offer support to the educators who stand at the intersection of content and language instruction with these amazing students is truly a privilege.”

UAH President Charles L. Karr and UAH Provost Dave Puleo met with superintendents of the Huntsville, Madison and Madison County school districts to formalize the partnerships.

“We applaud Dr. Word-Allbritton and her team for their dedicated efforts to win this grant,
which will benefit a significant and growing student demographic,” Puleo said. “This is a great mechanism to grow partnerships between UAH and three outstanding school districts.”

Project DIAL (Designing Instruction for Academic Literacies) provides opportunities for the educators as they acquire instructional skills to support the 3,000-plus English Learners in Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools, and Madison County Schools.

“One of the most gratifying aspects of a project like this is that it leverages ongoing
research and long-standing relationships,” said Karr. “I know Dr. Word-Allbritton and her team are very appreciative of the enthusiastic support they have received from our current partners and are poised to submit future proposals that can expand the reach of their work to other districts across North Alabama.”

The project is the second NPD grant awarded to UAH in the past decade. It builds on
successes in preparing educators for students who are not native speakers of English.

Through a competitive application process, the grant will provide tuition support for local educators to enroll in the UAH’s ESOL master’s program. The project will also deliver a suite of on-demand professional training opportunities for teachers who want to hone their skills in delivering instruction to ELs.

“Collaborating with educators in our partner districts presents a remarkable opportunity to make further strides in how we understand the design of instructional language itself,” said Dr. Christina Steid, associate dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and Co-PI and research director for Project DIAL. “One issue we will be looking at closely is the extent to which that design impacts student comprehension and overall access to the curriculum.”

Teachers interested in learning more about Project DIAL should contact their local school
district or reach out to Project DIAL at dial@uah.edu.

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