Faculty members partner with local teachers to help students learning English as second language

November 28, 2011

DEARBORN / Nov. 28, 2011---More than 18,000 students consider Dearborn Public Schools their home away from home.

Monday through Friday, students often are studying in the classroom or playing sports on the field. But about 40 percent of those students aren’t proficient when it comes to understanding the English language. That language gap often poses a problem in the classroom.

UM-Dearborn works to erase that gap. Martha Adler, along with fellow UM-Dearborn faculty members, continues to work with Dearborn Public Schools’ teachers in an effort to help develop their awareness of the relevance of language to specific disciplines.

“Dearborn has one of the highest populations of English language-learners in Michigan,” said Adler, associate professor of education. “Many of the problems students have when they hit concept areas is the language, not necessarily the concepts. We have kids who can barely speak English, but are great at geometry.”

Adler encourages Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), a research-based model that helps teachers plan and deliver lessons that allow English learners to acquire the necessary knowledge as they develop English language proficiency.

Matt Schleif, a social studies teacher at Edsel Ford High School, said working with UM-Dearborn faculty members has helped him decipher which teaching methods most benefited his students learning English as a second language.

“As a graduate from both the Dearborn Public Schools and UM-Dearborn, I love being involved in this effort that is benefiting not only the students in our classrooms, but also supporting and educating our educators here in Dearborn,” Schleif said. “I was part of the initial group of teachers five years ago that started the program and I am asked every year whether or not I have the time to continue to participate. Without hesitation, I have always said ‘absolutely yes’.”

And it’s not only the teachers who are applauding UM-Dearborn’s collaborative efforts. Fordson High School already is seeing a positive impact, said Principal Youssef Mosallam.

“Working with Martha and the University has been a phenomenal experience,” Mosallam said. “The team work and collaboration with Martha has really focused on developing teachers that can reach out and help students. If we want to continue developing great teachers and having our students continuously excel, we need to continue dialogue and collaboration between the University’s educational programs and the school districts.”

Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company, University of Michigan-Dearborn is a metropolitan university serving southeastern Michigan, committed to excellence rooted in strong academics, innovative research and programming and civic engagement. The University has nearly 8,900 students pursuing more than 100 bachelor's, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business and education.  A top-ranked university with a faculty devoted to teaching, and students committed to achievement, UM-Dearborn has been shaped by its history of partnering with local leaders and communities, and is committed to finding solutions for the challenges that face the region.


Beth Marmarelli