The University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies (SPCS) is offering an online English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Praxis test preparation seminar for Virginia educators seeking to add the English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement to their Virginia teaching license.

The seminar has been developed and provided free of charge to Virginia educators with funding from the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) through its implementation of Title III of the federal Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The year-long grant provided $75,000 to develop and provide an online test preparation seminar for Virginia educators seeking to earn the ESL teaching endorsement. A pilot cohort of 25 students from Virginia Superintendent's Region 6 (covering the counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Henry, Montgomery, Patrick, Pittsylvania and Roanoke; and the cities and towns of Bedford, Covington, Danville, Franklin, Martinsville, Roanoke and Salem) were enrolled in the spring pilot.

Following the successful pilot, the seminar was finalized with an enrollment cap of 25 in each cohort and made available to educators from throughout Virginia in two cohorts, one in the summer and one in the fall. Applicants enrolled in the seminar through SPCS following notification from the Virginia DOE.

The program has been popular and successful. 25 students from 13 school divisions enrolled in the Summer 2018 cohort, and another 25 enrolled from another 13 school divisions in the Fall cohort. Each cohort attracted far more applicants than could be accepted; students were enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis following announcement of the opportunity from the DOE. A limited number of waitlisted students were enrolled in response to last-minute cancellations, but dozens of additional applicants were unable to enroll.

The need for teachers of English Language Learners (ELL) in Virginia is critical. The number of ELLs in Virginia schools has at least doubled in the past decade; in response, the ESEA provides funding in its Title III: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students to address English language proficiency and academic achievement of English Learners (ELs), including the provision of language instruction educational programs (LIEPs) and activities that increase the knowledge and skills of teachers who serve ELs.

Dr. Laura Kuti, Assistant Chair of Teacher Education and Assistant Professor in the SPCS Graduate Education program, developed the online ESOL Praxis Test Preparation seminar at the invitation of the DOE Title III coordinator. The seminar prepares students to take the ESOL Praxis, the primary requirement for professional educators to earn the add-on ESL endorsement to their teaching license. The seminar was made available to Virginia educators actively seeking the ESL endorsement.

As subject matter expert and instructor, Kuti relied heavily on university-wide collaboration to implement the online training program. SPCS professional education coordinators and managers assisted in registering students in individual cohorts. SPCS communication and enrollment coordinators collaborated to ensure applicants and enrolled students were kept abreast of their enrollment and registration status and were provided access to online instructional tools and the learning management system. Specialists in the Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology (CTLT) provided instructional and technical support in collaboration with Information Services for Kuti and her classes, both in preparing the online learning modules and in implementing the online class through the learning management system.

Kuti happily shares that a student enrolled in the pilot cohort had this to say about the experience: “The five-week was excellent and provided appropriate content. All Virginia educators should participate in the program.”

Although funding for additional cohorts is still being discussed, Kuti and others in the school are quietly optimistic that the program’s success will enable SPCS to continue meeting the need for ESOL teachers throughout the state.

Related Campus Units

Education Department

Assistant Professor, Education
Assistant Chair, Graduate Education - Teacher Education