Professors Sabrina Wesley-Nero (SFS’95), Crissa Stephens, and Douglas Reed, the principal investigators of Project ELEECT, stand before the “Language Access for All in D.C.” mural created by Criomatic Muralist Juan Pineda in partnership with D.C.’s Office of Latino Affairs.
Category: Campus & Community, Faculty, Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2022

Title:Project ELEECT advances educational justice in D.C.

Author: Kate Colwell
Date Published: April 26, 2022

Three Georgetown faculty members have initiated a five-year project, supported by a $2.6 million grant from the Department of Education, to improve educational equity for multilingual K through 12 students in Washington, D.C. Grounded in antiracist work, the English Learners’ Educational Excellence Capitol Teacher Training Project (Project ELEECT) seeks to improve outcomes for teachers, students, and entire communities.

Led by Douglas Reed, Sabrina Wesley-Nero (SFS’95), and Crissa Stephens, Project ELEECT uses a two-pronged approach to teacher training. First, it identifies and recruits multilingual aspiring teachers and—when combined with Georgetown aid— covers at least 70% of the tuition costs to attend Georgetown’s Educational Transformation master’s program with a learning and teaching concentration. Second, it provides credentialed D.C. teachers of any subject matter with 80% of the cost of professional training to better meet the needs of students whose first language is not English. The project aims to train more than 130 teachers, partnering with District of Columbia Public Schools and more than 20 charter schools.

Project ELEECT improves the quality of teaching and also helps equip teachers to advocate for equitable, culturally inclusive school policies.

“Schools need support to best meet students’ linguistic and civil rights,” says Stephens, an assistant teaching professor in Georgetown’s Master’s in Educational Transformation. “Our teachers will be trained with an equity lens and deep knowledge of how to support language development in education, so when they see ways that their school could better reflect the identities of all of its students, they’re able to use that lens as policy actors and have a voice in changes that may need to happen.”

D.C.’s population is linguistically diverse, with many students speaking Spanish, Amharic, and other languages at home. Teachers can better form relationships with students and help them thrive by respecting the linguistic assets of multilingual learners and positioning linguistic diversity as a benefit.

“It’s a tremendous asset within the K through 12 student body to have students who have such an enormous array of linguistic talents,” says Reed, professor of government and director of the Educational Transformation master’s program. “That makes it easier to bridge into English and also deepens their learning in other areas as well.”

Although the Educational Transformation master’s program marks the university’s first foray into U.S. teacher certification, Georgetown has been involved in educational justice for 25 years.

“For me, educational justice is central to the identity of Georgetown University,” says Wesley-Nero, director of the undergraduate program in Education, Inquiry, and Justice, co-creator of the graduate program in Educational Transformation, and faculty lead of the Learning and Teaching concentration. “When we see educational opportunities denied, we see the outcomes in health care, in our economy, in our political activity, and in our communities. To be a place that values cura personalis, we need education that nurtures the entire person. For multilingual students, that means their entire linguistic repertoire.”

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