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Grant Provides Cultural Competency and
Intervention Skills for Eau Claire Teachers

RELEASED: May 7, 2008

EAU CLAIRE — A new joint program between the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the Eau Claire Area School District will help classroom teachers and university student teachers better meet the learning needs of students of color, according to the program's creator.

Dr. Dwight C. Watson
Dr. Dwight C. Watson

The grant-funded program, "Culturally Congruent Response to Intervention," will provide teachers and student teachers with cultural competency skills and expertise on intervention and techniques, said Dr. Dwight C. Watson, associate dean of teacher education at UW-Eau Claire and author of the $164,000 UW System three-year grant that will fund the program.

"The project gives teachers and university student teachers the skills to identify struggling students early, and knowledge of the appropriate instructional interventions in the regular classroom rather than the special education classroom," Watson said. "Keeping students in the regular classroom will increase student achievement."

Research has shown that schools need to focus on culturally congruent practices and intervention, said Robyn Criego, ECASD director of special education and student services.

"Our district is engaged in developing a response-to-intervention model that is culturally responsive to all of our students to ensure we increase the achievement of all students and we decrease the achievement gaps of particular groups of students," Criego said. "It's especially powerful that this grant will let us do that with our current staff, but also help better prepare young teachers as well."

During the first year of the grant, research and assessments will be made, which will be followed by a series of professional development workshops teaching culturally congruent pedagogy, Watson said. The UW-Eau Claire Teacher Education Program, College of Arts and Sciences and Eau Claire Area School District Teaching and Learning Department will provide the in-service workshops.

"One skill culturally congruent pedagogy gives teachers is the ability to determine the difference between language acquisition deficits from learning disabilities when evaluating children who are English language learners," said Watson.

In year two of the project, the first group of teachers will begin to teach in these cultural congruent ways and will showcase lessons for their peers and for university student teachers to observe, Watson said. During the second half of year two, the teachers will provide staff development workshops to prepare the next group of teachers, he said.

University students also will be paired with teachers who participated in the first year. The student teachers will leave the program with an understanding of culturally congruent teaching practices and have an understanding of the necessary interventions needed by students, Watson said.

"It's a train-the-trainer model," said Watson. "The idea is to create a model of sustainability. We create a critical mass of teachers with the skills to provide perpetual training for other teachers in the district and for university student teachers."

In the third year of the grant, procedures from the second year will be replicated on a districtwide scale, Watson said. The groups of teachers experienced in culturally congruent practices will conduct model lessons, open their classroom to additional student-teacher field placements and provide professional development seminars, he said.

"Our goal is to have a systematic way to prepare teachers so they have the cultural competency necessary to work with students of color, and the expertise on intervention and techniques to respond to the various learning needs of students," said Watson.

To discuss the grant or his research, contact Watson at 715-836-2013 or watsondc@uwec.edu.

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