EDC Project Supports Young English Learners in Hartford Public Schools

Photo of Jess Gropen

With a $3 million award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), EDC is leading Literacy and Academic Success for English Learners through Science (LASErS)—a project that is targeted to boost the academic success of pre-K through Grade 1 English learners in Hartford, Connecticut. Hartford serves more English learners than any other Connecticut district. Surveys show that 18 percent of students were identified as English learners in 2012–13, with 40 percent living in homes where English is not the primary language. With major support from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, EDC is partnering with the Hartford Public Schools, Capitol Region Education Council, Connecticut Science Center, and William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund to support schools and families in enhancing the early learning of these young students. The Yale Child Study Center serves as the external evaluator of the initiative.

EDC Senior Research Scientist Jess Gropen (at left) said, “LASErS addresses one of the biggest educational challenges that our country faces—how to help young English learners reach their potential—and it does so in a creative way by using science as a context for language learning.”

To support students’ literacy and language development, LASErS is providing teachers with intensive, face-to-face professional development, supporting instructional coaches with online training, and engaging families in their children’s early science and literacy learning through classroom explorations, family events held at the Connecticut Science Center and school, and family “toolkits” to extend science exploration at home. Gropen noted that while the project approach is new, it draws on three research-based factors:

  1. English learners benefit from a variety of communication opportunities, in and out of the classroom
  2. Cultures and home languages must be appreciated, respected, and used to support learning
  3. Language/literacy and cognitive development are accelerated when engaged in science learning

Project Director Jacqueline Bourassa said, “This work builds on EDC’s decades of experience fostering young children’s early science and literacy learning and draws on the significant strengths of our Connecticut partners. Together, we are working with state leaders to create a program that can be sustained and expanded to serve young English learners and their families throughout the state and potentially serve as a model for other states.”

Last Updated: July 2016