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Professional Experience

Mission / Vision

Students who are new to the U.S. and new to English are not “blank slates”. They already speak one complex language system, maybe several, and now they are adding another. They have a wealth of cultural knowledge and life experiences, though these may not share a lot of overlap with students who are the same age who grew up in the U.S.

Newcomer immigrants to the U.S. feel pressure to learn English fast. Public schools want to help them do that. My professional work and academic research is centered around concrete methodologies for supporting newcomer immigrant students in U.S. schools. Central to my work, and the work of the organizations I’m involved in, is the belief that students’ home languages should be honored and maintained as integral parts of most students’ identities. Additionally, research shows home languages can be leveraged during the process of learning English.

Multilingual Literacy SIFE Screener (MLS)

I’m the Project Director for the Multilingual Literacy SIFE Screener (MLS) at the Second Language Acquisition Laboratory. The MLS is a semi-adaptive computerized assessment in 16 languages administered to newcomer immigrant students who are new to English and who potentially have interrupted schooling upon their enrollment to New York State public schools. You can read more about the project here or watch a webinar explaining the tool and how to use it here.

The purpose of the tool is to give educators information about a student’s literacy and math skills in the student’s home language. Meeting students where they’re at and giving them learning materials that are challenging but doable is good pedagogy. This tool helps teachers understand students’ home language skills so they can meet students where they’re at and provide appropriate instruction.

As the Project Director, I’m responsible for overseeing website maintenance and user support, for liaising with state partners and delivering trainings to schools, and for initiating, managing, and monitoring research and development projects to update and grow our battery of assessments.

This project is funded by the New York State Department of Education, and is available only to New York State schools. Professor Gita Martohardjono (CUNY Graduate Center and Queens College) is the Principal Investigator.

Bridges to Academic Success

Bridges to Academic Success is a sister project to the MLS. Once educators have an understanding of the skills of each of their newcomer students, it becomes clear that some students need extra support to succeed in middle school and high school classes. Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) who have had a significant gap in education are especially at risk of dropping out of school. Bridges develops materials to scaffold instruction for students with the lowest home literacy skills, and provides trainings to school teachers and administrators so that they can provide appropriate academic and social-emotional support for all of their newcomer students.

For two years I was the project manager for this group, coordinating staff and workstreams including teacher and administrator trainings, curriculum development projects, coaching and school visits, and other special projects. In my current capacity as Research Associate, I advise on strategic research, writing, and development activities.

For more information about Bridges, see their website at https://bridges-sifeproject.com/.