The federal grant will assist district's bilingual/bicultural special ed programs, paying for teacher stipends.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Jorge Porrata, a fourth grade two-way immersion teacher at Bridgeport Elementary School, reads a book to his class on the first day back to school in September. A recently awarded $3 million federal grant awarded to Portland State University will benefit the Tigard-Tualatin School Districts bilingual and bicultural special education programs.A $3 million federal grant recently awarded to Portland State University will be used to boost bilingual and bicultural special education programs in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

Funds from that grant, which were awarded to PSU's College of Education, can be spent over the next five years to investigate literacy instruction and interventions for students who are multilingual learners.

"We're really happy because we're following a tradition of 20 years of grants that can support bilingual/bicultural teachers. Oregon really lacks the diversity in the teaching core to match the diversity of its students," said Julie Esparza Brown of PSU's College of Education.

Esparza Brown said her goal for the last two decades at the university has been to build a more diversified pool of teachers. She wants to get historically underrepresented teachers into Oregon's workforce.

"When teachers mirror the cultural and linguistic background of the students, their academic performance and outcomes increase," Esparza Brown stated in a PSU news release, adding that there are very few bilingual special education teachers both on local and national levels.

In Oregon, only 919 teachers of color have been adding to the Oregon teaching community over the past decade, according to the Oregon Equity Teacher Report.

Brown said she's pleased with the size of the grant as well.

"Usually the grants have been — the ones that I've gotten over the last 20 years — have been more in the range of $1.5 (million)," she said. "So this is nice."

The grant money comes from the Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition as part of a project that's known as DICE PLUSS, an acronym for Diverse Inclusive Collaborative Educators.

The program is expected to start in January.

Specifically, the $3 million grant will provide scholarship stipends for teachers who are either bilingual or bicultural so they can obtain their special education licenses. That includes teachers who want to learn skills working with bilingual or bicultural students as well.

Five or six teachers will be recruited into a training program at Portland State each year.

Although it falls under the special education category, Esparza Brown said that doesn't mean the students involved have a disability — something reiterated by Tigard-Tualatin Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith.

"It's a wonderful opportunity and the reason being is that one of the challenges that we have is relative to special education — particularly for children whose home language is different than English — is that many times they are disproportionately represented in special ed simply because they do not have a home language (that) a teacher who speaks their language is able to assess," Rieke-Smith said. "This basically provides that opportunity to deepen the work as to how do we train special ed teachers."

The Tigard-Tualatin School District has a little more than 22% of its population who are English learners. While the grant is primarily geared toward Spanish-speaking students — Spanish being the most prevalent language spoken in the district after English — Rieke-Smith said the district might later be able to expand its program to include other language populations.

Teachers who are part of the grant will specifically work on literacy programs in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

"This is our second grant partnership with Tigard-Tualatin. They're just a wonderful school district partner to have," said Esparza Brown. "They're doing great work, and we're just going to work alongside them."

PSU's College of Education has worked with the district for the last four years, researching and investigating literacy interventions for English language learners in an effort to make improvements.

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