Bridges is an extensive collaboration among high school language and literacy teachers, subject area teachers, school administrators in several high schools in NYS, and CUNY researchers. Bridges serves a population of immigrant students who have recently entered public high schools as “English language learners” or “emergent bilinguals” (our preferred term), but who have low levels of home language literacy upon entry to ninth grade. In Bridges, these students attend a sheltered program at their high school, with dedicated classes that have been specifically designed to meet their language, literacy, academic, socio-cultural and emotional needs.
The classes are taught by teachers trained to use a specialized curriculum and instructional strategies developed for Bridges. These classes, along with other supportive programs, are being offered as Bridges to high school, potentially helping to better prepare these students for the complex secondary school material of their future classes. Part of the project’s goal, then, is to pilot-test the Bridges curriculum, reflecting on and revising the units based on the input of the teachers using the curriculum, with the objective of developing an improved version for implementation in subsequent years.
A strong research component of Bridges is planned for the future. While Bridges has documented its work from its inception, or plans include and external evaluation that will analyze the experiences of teachers and students using the Bridges curriculum during this entry-level high school year. It will measure the language, literacy and academic improvement of Bridges students from the beginning to the end of each year to determine whether and to what extent Bridges is a viable and successful option for educating this student population. Success will be measured by the extent to which Bridges students remain in school (i.e. affecting the drop-out rate) and experience success in school (i.e. indicated by educational improvement), as compared to similar students who have not attended the Bridges program.
The research will also examine the ease and feasibility of the program’s implementation and whether it can be replicated in other schools and school districts, if it does support the educational advancement of its students. It can therefore be considered an altruistic research component, not only seeking to benefit the schools being served, but also for the potential benefit of schools in the future who serve these students.
Bridges is supported by the New York Community Trust, the New York City Department of Education, the CUNY Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society, the CUNY Center for Advanced Studies in Education, and the New York State Education Department.