Research Project Serves Immigrant Learners with High Potential

Bridge Students on the St. John's campus
December 5, 2018

In the spirit of St. John’s University’s Vincentian mission, Project BRIDGE in The School of Education (SOE) has crossed disciplines through the collaboration of SOE faculty from three departments, graduate students, visiting scholars, and external experts to help neglected, underserved immigrant students with high potential in New York. 

While the number of immigrant English learners (ELs) has been rapidly increasing (ELs are projected to comprise 40 percent of US students by 2030), the high academic potential of gifted English learners often goes unrecognized due to their English proficiency. The issue is exacerbated by low expectations and lack of challenging instruction. Project BRIDGE research provides insights for identification of young gifted immigrant English learners and for creating preparatory or transitional programs.

Seokhee Cho, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Creativity and Gifted Education, and Professor, Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership, is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of gifted and talented education. She is the principal investigator of Project BRIDGE. In February, she was awarded a highly competitive, $1.9 million, five-year research grant from the US Department of Education for her proposal, “Developing Academic Competency of Young Gifted English Learners with Advanced Mathematics Program and Language Scaffolding.” Dr. Cho collaborated with John N. Spiridakis, Ph.D., Project BRIDGE Director and Interim Chair and Professor of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Department of Education Specialties, to structure and implement the research project.

Project BRIDGE also involves James R. Campbell, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership, and noted researcher and author in the area of gifted and talented education, as a key member of the research team, along with St. John’s Project Research Director Sonmi Jo, Ph.D.; St. John’s faculty members Jenny Yang, Ed.D., and Bilge Cerezci, Ph.D., from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction; and Doctoral Fellows Nia Hulse and Atinuke Ayeni. External experts for the project include M. Katherine Gavin, Ph.D., and Tutita Casa, Ph.D., University of Connecticut; Nancy B. Hertzog, Ph.D., University of Washington; and Diane Rodriguez, Ph.D., Fordham University. 

Project BRIDGE partners with seven public schools, 200 students in total, in School Districts 24, 25, 28, and 30 in New York City, and the Westbury Union Free School District. Language scaffolding strategies have been developed to serve potentially gifted English learners from kindergarten through second grade during after-school hours. The math and English language proficiency of participating students is expected to improve, along with teachers’ expertise in scaffolding instruction. Schools are provided with enrichment resources.

Evidence-based practices for Project BRIDGE are built upon Dr. Cho’s previous Project HOPE, funded by the US Department of Education in 2009–14, and Mentoring Young Mathematicians (M²) program. The M² program was developed based upon gifted pedagogy for students in kindergarten through second grade. Project HOPE’s language scaffolding strategies were found to contribute to increased math achievement, creative problem solving, and English proficiency for promising English language learners in grades three through five.

For information about Project BRIDGE, please contact Dr. Cho at 718-990-1303; [email protected].