WT Education Professors Launch Study of Multilingual Students at AISD’s Eastridge Elementary


CANYON, Texas —West Texas A&M University professors are leading a new study of how to promote learning for multilingual students through a research partnership with Eastridge Elementary School in Amarillo.

Dr. Sang Hwang, professor of education, and Dr. Janet Hindman, associate professor of educational leadership, along with two student research assistants are closely observing fifth grade students at Eastridge for a 10-week period to see where enhancements in curriculum instruction can be made.

The study is made possible through a $5,000 award from the Richard and Mary West Traylor Research Grant from WT’s Center for Learning Disabilities.

“We chose to study Eastridge’s student population because of its high number of multilingual students,” Hwang said.

The school, located in northeast Amarillo in the center of a largely Asian-American neighborhood, serves students who speak nearly 40 different languages, said Principal Genie Baca.

“Most schools in Amarillo have students who speak at least two languages, generally Spanish and English, but our students are truly from all over the world who speak 38 different languages,” Baca said.

Schools aim to have their students to display a year’s worth of growth by the end of an academic year, Baca said, but because many of Eastridge’s students are largely unschooled before they start, the school’s teachers aim for 1 1/2 or two years’ worth of growth to make sure the students are keeping up with their peers.

The partnership with WT will help, Baca and the WT professors said.

“Our research assistants will be in the classrooms, supporting Eastridge teachers as they execute their high-quality, research-based curriculum,” Hindman said. “That will help us to measure the multilingual students’ growth and see which students need the most help.”

That will have immediate impact, Baca said.

“By having two more adults in the room helping students in class and after school, the students will have more opportunities to practice their discourse and written skills in English and improve their confidence,” Baca said.

The WT research assistants each will spend several hours two days a week in Eastridge classrooms, observing the teachers’ work with their full classes, then working more closely with smaller groups.

“We already have some information about the students, so we want to see if they benefit from small-group instruction, particularly in English proficiency, reading and writing,” said Karime Cervantes, a senior elementary education major from Amarillo.

“I’ll also work some with after-school and lunchtime programs and getting their self-assessments of their English proficiency,” said Elaina Robinson, a junior elementary education major from Amarillo.

Classroom observations will help Hwang and Hindman in learning more about the challenges of multilingual students. The student researchers also will get invaluable, hands-on experience working at a diverse school with multilingual students, Hwang said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help students whose struggles I relate to because I am also a multilingual learner,” said Cervantes, who took English as a Second Language classes at Highland Park Independent School District.

Hwang and Hindman are both faculty members in the Department of Education in WT’s Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences.

This is the first year the Traylor Research Grant has been awarded. The Traylors established it with a gift, matched by the Piehl family, in memory of the late Geneva Schaeffer and in honor of her husband, Stanley.

Mary Nan West, Mary West Traylor’s mother, was the first woman to become the President of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, and was serving in that capacity when WT joined the A&M System. She was instrumental in the university being able to retain “West Texas” in the name.

“WT’s Center for Learning Disabilities is honored to collaborate with a team of faculty, students at WT and AISD to improve educational opportunities for multilingual students,” said Dr. Michelle Simmons, center director and WT’s Lanna Hatton Professor of Learning Disabilities. “We are grateful for the support of the Traylor and Piehl families in moving forward research in an area of need here in the Panhandle.”

Addressing regional challenges is a key mission of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $115 million.


Photo: West Texas A&M University student researchers Elaina Robinson, from left, and Karime Cervantes work with a group of Eastridge Elementary School students as part of a study in partnership with Amarillo Independent School District.