Approximately 2,000 of Hartford’s young English learners and their families will be receiving new resources and assistance to positively impact their literacy and academic outcomes thanks to the approval of a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) and a $100,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
“Hartford has long been dedicated to helping people who come here from many corners of world seeking promising futures for their children,” said Mayor Segarra. “I would like to thank the collaborating partners in this program for focusing our young English learners and their families, a very important part of our community. I am thrilled by the allocation of this federal grant, which will support efforts by the Education Development Center, Hartford Public Schools and the other educational organizations to make those futures attainable.”
"The federal Investing in Innovation Fund grant could not have come at a better time for Hartford Public Schools,” said Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools. “The Hartford community has identified educational equity for English Language Learners as a priority. Achieving this goal will require a collaborative effort by all of the city’s educational stakeholders, and this grant allows us to work together to better meet the needs of this important segment of our student population. I want to thank the Department of Education, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Education Development Center, the City of Hartford, the Capital Region Education Council and the Connecticut Science Museum for making this possible."
This project is a collaborative effort between the Boston-based Education Development Center (EDC), Hartford Public Schools, the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC),
Connecticut Science Center, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund to implement the Literacy and Academic Success for English Learners through Science (LASErS) program. LASErS provides teachers and instructional coaches with high-quality professional development and offers families compelling resources and educational events, to leverage formal and informal science learning as a vehicle to support young English learners’ literacy, language, and academic success. A team from Yale Child Study Center will conduct an external evaluation of impact.
“This work builds on our decades of experience fostering young children’s early science and literacy learning and draws on the significant strengths of our Connecticut partners,” said EDC Vice President Sheila Skiffington. “Together, we will work with state leaders to create a program that can be sustained and expanded to serve young English learners and their families throughout the state.”
Hartford Public Schools serve more ELs than any other Connecticut district, with 17 percent of its students identified as ELs in 2012-13 and 40 percent from homes where English is not the primary language. This effort addresses an unmet need to prepare teachers and leaders in the earliest grades of school to provide English learners with effective instruction and support and to provide families with culturally sensitive and concrete information in their own language on how to promote their children’s learning. This project will help to create a more coordinated system for young English learners and their families and create greater continuity in supporting these students as they transition from preschool to early elementary grades to increase their opportunities for school readiness and success.
To help grantees enhance relationships at the national, regional, and local level, and in hopes of amplifying and sustaining the work, the i3 grant competition required all applicants to secure private-sector matching funds. The Hartford Foundation worked closely with EDC on the proposal and provided these necessary matching funds that resulted in Hartford being awarded the i3 grant. The funding and in-kind contributions from its current investments in early childhood provided by the Hartford Foundation will be used to support a portion of the project’s personnel costs to expand the scope of the project to collaborate with community-based early childhood education programs and the families they serve.
“The Foundation’s support for the LASErS program reflects our core values of equity and diversity and recognizes that families, communities and schools must work together to help children be ready for kindergarten and prepared to succeed in school,” said Linda J. Kelly, president of the Hartford Foundation. “Our contribution expands the reach of the project to enable children and families served by community-based early childhood programs in Hartford to benefit from the best practices and lessons learned from this innovative approach to supporting young English Learners.”
Aligned with the Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards, Common Core English Language Arts, and Next Generation Science Standards, LASErS will build Hartford Public Schools and CREC’s ability to use research-based literacy practices to support English learners, creating resources and approaches that can be scaled statewide via CREC and the five other Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs).
“We are very pleased with the help we received from Connecticut’s congressional delegation as we worked to secure the i3 grant for approximately 2,000 of Hartford’s young English learners and their families,” said CREC Executive Director Bruce E. Douglas. “We look forward to working with Hartford Public Schools, the Education Development Center, and other organizations to implement the LASErS program—a program that will make a difference in the lives of many of our children and families.”
The Connecticut Science Center’s STEM educators will work with Education Development staff to create linkages between English learners and their families through science-focused literacy strategies and school events with families and teachers. The Science Center will also integrate English literacy strategies into ongoing Science Center educational and professional development programs, coordinate and host summer “Family Days” for participating students and their families and other events to share lessons learned with other programs and schools.
“While the study of science is certainly enhanced through literacy, the mutually reinforcing educational power of science and literacy is just as powerful,” said Matt Fleury, president & CEO of the Connecticut Science Center. “Our educators are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to engage a growing number of promising students and their families in science experiences that help prepare them for the workforce needs and opportunities of their future.”