First In Colorado: Regis University Incorporates Culturally and Linguistically Diverse-Endorsement into Undergraduate Education Licensure Program

Donnie VeaseySeptember 28, 2012

The Regis College Teacher Education Program at Regis University became the first in Colorado to be approved for the new Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) endorsement standards at the undergraduate education level, ensuring that graduates of the education program are trained and prepared to effectively teach the state’s increasing diverse population of K-12 students. Regis College --one of three colleges at Regis University -- is the residential, liberal-arts college for traditional-aged students at Regis University. “Right now, we are the first university in the state to offer this new CLD endorsement from a fully integrative approach at the undergraduate level,” said Elizabeth Grassi, associate professor in Regis College, who along with fellow associate professor Heidi Barker and professor John Cross, led the effort to obtain the CLD endorsement. “Our students have exposure to educational research and strategies that benefit CLD students over the course of their four-plus years of study throughout their educational licensure program.” Regis College students will receive the endorsement simultaneously to receiving their elementary or secondary license. Although preparing every teacher in education of CLD students was a priority, the process of incorporation was extensive as Regis College undergraduate education faculty worked for the past six years to incorporate theory and practices for CLD education into every class across the curriculum. Regis College students learn about these theories and strategies both in their Regis classrooms and in local classrooms where they work with CLD students and practicing teachers. And although there was strong student interest, as well the previous minor didn’t provide full endorsement needed by students entering the classroom as novice teachers and didn’t fully assure prospective employers of their competency in what Grassi and Barker called a “vital area.” Grassi, who earned a doctorate degree from the University of Colorado, Cross, who earned a doctorate degree from Auburn University, and Barker, who earned a doctorate degree from University of Illinois, developed a proposal and plan which essentially mandated that every student who successfully completed the program and applies for licensure will have completed the CLD coursework to be eligible for the CLD endorsement. The benefits of CLD endorsement are wide spread, positively impacting Regis University faculty as well as students in the program and ultimately Colorado’s diverse population of K-12 students. According to Barker, the Colorado Department of Higher Education 2010-2011 report states that not only is Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education considered a “high need area” in Colorado, but that enrollment in these programs has declined from the preceding year . “By requiring a full endorsement in CLD education for all our pre-service teachers, we are meeting the need of teachers trained in this area for Colorado,” Barker said. “Most universities offer the CLD endorsement as an add-on endorsement once teachers are already employed in the classrooms. We have been pro-active by making sure our teachers are fully prepared before entering a classroom.” Adds Grassi, “Regis faculty benefit from this addition by increasing our collective knowledge around CLD education, by collaborating with each other to create a vibrant and up to date program, and by increasing our connections to local schools and communities that are highly impacted with CLD students.” In researching and then developing their recommendation for CLD incorporation, the Regis professors identified a significant need based on Colorado’s rapidly changing demographics. Included in that extensive research was that Colorado was one of 12 states that had a 200 percent increase in ELL students from 1994 to 2004; and that nearly 17 percent of people in Colorado speak a language other than English; and that an educator preparation report identified that CLD education is a high need content area in Colorado, noting that enrollment in CLD education declined. CLD incorporation also means the creation of stronger ties to the community. According to Grassi, one requirement of completing this endorsement is that all students spend at least one semester at one of the Catholic SUN schools, where students are trained in CLD strategies. Additionally, all students participate in the Regis CB-SEEP program where they study in the local Regis neighborhood with Hispanic immigrant families. All students also complete internships in highly impacted local public schools. “Having this endorsement is a practical way for our students to implement social justice practices in education,” Barker added. Finally, measuring their progress and success is also an important portion of the process. Grassi and Barker, who were also selected as Regis College Faculty Lecturers of the Year for 2011, are currently working on a departmental assessment plan to supplement the new Colorado Teacher Effectiveness law which will track teachers and their student growth scores. And they also plan to interface with new assessments for CLD students being implemented by Colorado. (Donnie Veasey is the Director of Media Relations in the University Relations’ Department of Communications and Design.)