Teacher in a classroom

Urban Education Department to Launch New Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Bilingual and Secondary Education

The Rutgers Board of Governors on Tuesday, June 21, unanimously voted to approve the creation of two Bachelor of Arts degrees by the School of Arts and Sciences–Newark, one in ESL & Bilingual Urban Education and another in Urban Secondary Education.  

The new degree programs will broaden the Urban Education department’s curriculum by offering more support for pre-service teachers to successfully move into ESL/Bilingual and grade 7-12 classrooms. 

“When I was hired in fall 2020 to make changes and grow the department, we realized that the current curriculum needed updating to better serve our students. These new programs will do just that,” said Urban Education department Chair Lynnette Mawhinney, who oversaw creation of the new B.A. programs with her administrative leadership team, LaChan Hannon, Director of Teacher Preparation & Innovation, and Jhanae Wingfield, Director of Field Experiences.  

The new programs will enable students to start coursework in relevant concentrations earlier, be better supported to complete teacher certification exams successfully, and gain more time in the field: for example, grade 7-12 classrooms. In addition, newly revamped courses will help the department fulfill its mission as a justice-oriented program. 

More specifically, the Urban Secondary Education B.A. degree supplants the department’s older Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP), which was a concentration (not an actual degree) and has been phased out. The 37-credit dual-major B.A. program, which offers a new curriculum and has additional credit requirements, will target undergrads who want to teach middle- and high-school students in subjects such as math, English, social studies, the sciences, technology education and world languages. This will give RU-N undergrads not only subject-area mastery but also prepare them to teach these subjects areas using culturally responsive pedagogies and practices that meet the needs of learners in urban schools, according to Hannon.  

These programs are the result of deep collaborations with families, educators, administrators, and policy makers.

The ESL and Bilingual Urban Education program, the first in the state of New Jersey, was designed to leverage RU-N undergrads’ biliteracy and bilingualism while positioning them to address the teacher shortage in the areas of teaching English as a Second Language and Bilingual/Bicultural Education. These are critical areas of need, especially in the city Newark, where 40 percent of students speak a home language other than English, according to Hannon.  

“In fact, the Newark Board of Education is offering increased salaries and signing bonuses for teachers with these credentials,” said Hannon. “And this degree will help our students far beyond teaching in elementary and high school classrooms, since they can be used in all professions where language barriers exist.” 

Additionally, teacher certification in these areas traditionally has been offered only at the graduate level, making it an equity issue, said Hannon. The Urban Education department’s leadership team wanted bilingual/biliterate candidates to be able to use their language skills as an instructional tool and cultural mainstay without the financial burden of graduate-level tuition fees. 

“Ultimately, this ESL/Bilingual Education major will strengthen the university’s mission of increasing democratic citizenry by encouraging and supporting bilingualism among teachers and students,” said Hannon. “Not doing so would be a disservice to our bilingual and biliterate teacher candidates and P-12 students.” 

SASN Dean Jacqueline Mattis is excited for the new programs, emphasizing their alignment with the Rutgers-Newark mission as an anchor institution. "Through these two outstanding programs, Dr. Mawhinney and her team have demonstrated what it looks like when an anchor lens is used to shape curricular design. These programs are the result of deep collaborations with families, educators, administrators, and policy makers."

She added, "Like most nations across the globe, the US is urbanizing rapidly. We are used to thinking about urban schools and communities in terms of problems and challenges. These programs are rooted in a radically different mindset. They are grounded in an understanding that the families and educators who live and work in urban settings are creative and they have enormous funds of knowledge that can benefit us all. These programs are forward looking, and they build on community assets, skills, and knowledges. This is a model of what 21st century urban educational design should look like."

Meanwhile, Mawhinney stresses that it’s been a team effort that couldn’t have moved forward without the support of a great many colleagues. 

“As we developed the new B.A. degree programs, our department faculty, SASN faculty, and the Dean's office supported our vision throughout the whole process,” said Mawhinney, “and we are truly grateful.” 

In addition to the new degree programs, the department will also offer several new certifications and minors this fall, including a minor in Disability Studies, the first such program at Rutgers University.