Society & Culture

Teachers needed for project to improve English language learners’ achievement

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia education researchers are seeking the final cohort of third- and fifth-grade teachers in northeast Georgia to participate in a $2.9 million project examining the effectiveness of a teaching method in improving English language learners’ achievement toward Common Core State Standards.

Funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, the project examines the effectiveness of the Instructional Conversation method, an evidence-based, regularly scheduled, teacher-led, small-group instructional strategy. The IC has been shown to improve the academic achievement of all upper-elementary students, but is especially effective with English language learners.

Ninety teachers representing school districts in Barrow, Clarke, Clayton, Colquitt, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson, Newton and Rockdale counties, along with Gainesville city, are currently participating in the first two cohorts.

Participating teachers receive monetary compensation from $1,000 to $3,000. Selected teachers receive training in the IC teaching strategy, with weekly coaching and support for a full year in order to master it. There is no cost or work for school administrators, but teacher commitment must be for two years.

“Current instruction often fails to connect with immigrant children’s learning potential and does not make the most of the cultural capital these children bring to our education system. The Instructional Conversation pedagogy makes those connections and, in doing so, provides a richer learning environment for all students,” said Pedro Portes, The Goizueta Foundation Distinguished Chair of Latino Teacher Education and executive director of the College of Education’s Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education.

The Common Core State Standards for English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12 were developed in 2010 to establish clear and consistent goals for learning that will prepare America’s children for success in college and work in collaboration with content experts, states, teachers, school administrators and parents. They have been adopted by 45 of 50 states including Georgia.

However, because they do not mandate any particular strategy or method, educators have felt some concern about how to reach them.

“Because Instructional Conversation stresses in-depth critical thinking, increased student talk, improved language understanding and collaborative problem-solving, it is a perfect platform for reaching Common Core goals,” says Paula Mellom, assistant research scientist for CLASE.

“We have definitely seen an increase in conversation among our students and it’s purposeful talk, not just talking about the weekend,” said one participating teacher from Gainesville City School District.

“It fits in with the Common Core and the kind of deeper understandings that the Common Core is demanding that we teach versus the way we may have been teaching before,” said another participating teacher from Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Any Georgia elementary school administrator or third- or fifth-grade teacher who is interested in participating in the project should contact Marcy Nejat at or Paula Mellom at by Feb. 15. To sign up online, see