Fund Partners with University to Help Limited-English Students

In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a growing proportion of students have limited English language skills, putting them at risk of lower academic achievement and unhealthy behaviors.

With the support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, James Madison University is introducing Future Forward, which brings a proven program to increase English literacy and academic performance to minority language speaking middle schoolers in Harrisonburg (Virginia) City Public Schools.

In recent years, as many as 48% of Harrisonburg City Public School students were designated as limited-English-proficient. James Madison and the school system have responded by introducing the Shenandoah Valley Migrant Education Program, which has proven successful at increasing literacy and improving academic performance.

But the Migrant Education Program is targeted to younger students and, contractually, can only be offered to students who meet the state’s definition of “migrant.” The school system recognized that many students failed to meet this definition and, thus were denied services. Officials also recognized the importance of working with students during the challenging middle school years.

The University launched Future Forward to bring the concepts of the Migrant Education Program to middle school students. In its pilot year, 90% of participants improved their English literacy and proficiency skills.

The trustees of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund awarded a grant of $54,490 to James Madison, enable the University to extend Future Forward to a broader group of students, helping to position them for academic success in high school.