U.S. Education Department ‘Failing English Learners’

U.S. students who speak a language other than English at home and are still learning English have received scant support from the federal Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan. That is the take-away of the report “Opportunity Lost: The Promise of Equal and Effective Education for Emerging Bilingual Students in the Obama Administration” published this month by the BUENO National Policy Center for Bilingual & Multicultural Education at the University of Colorado.

The BUENO National Policy Center carried out a review of the policies and programs of the Education Department, according to Director Jorge Garcia, because “Emerging Bilingual Students are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. school population. The quality of education they receive will significantly influence our nation’s future success.”

The report cites the major failures as:

• When the administration dispersed to  K-12 schools nearly $80 billion in ARRA stimulus money, “not one dollar” allotted to the federal program which supports Emerging Bilingual students and schools experiencing a recent increase in immigrant student enrollment, Title III of the ESEA.

• It took more than a year and a half for the Education Department to name the first OELA director, and when she stepped down, it took nearly another year to name Libia S. Gil, the current director.

• The shortage of qualified teachers is the result of the department lack of effort to increase the supply of teachers to work with English-learners., unlike its push to train 100,000 teachers in the STEM subjects.

• The result of federal waivers from some requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act is that, in many states, the actual performance of ELLs is masked.

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  1. Unfortunately, I find that ESL teachers are also not getting great support (like many teachers). ESL Teachers are expected to have various certifications and advanced degrees (which take time and money) with low salaries in return. The students lose out as a result. I feel that technology is the key, both in the classroom for students (language gaming) and online time/cost-efficient certification for teachers (with federal grants).

  2. I am at a loss to understand how students will comprehend the abstract concepts of math and science in the STEM program when they are unable to understand and produce academic English. The need is too great and it is too late in the game to give up. Teachers must ask for more financing to provide an education to our most precious resource…the people of our country….

  3. I have made a lot of money from ESL, but I must concur with your statements. All the money I made in ESL was outside of the USA. Administrators have acknowledged that I am the most qualified ESL teacher in the county and possibly the state, but I am teaching social studies to native speakers of English. At least half of them write and speak English inferior to the students I had in other countries.

  4. I concur with most of what I have read here. I got my MA in TESOL cause all the jobs in the US required it. Had I looked further, I would have realized that to teach abroad it wasn’t necessary, great, but not necessary. US requires more education and pays the teachers much, much less than schools abroad, which don’t require as much education!

  5. I have a doctorate in education, but I would advise against it unless you are already where you want to be and it won’t “complicate” your situation. Interviews are awkward when one realizes the interviewee does not want to hire someone with a higher degree. One can also feel that the PhD or EdD who has never published anything does not want to hire someone who has published, but he or she was requested to do the interview. Interviews are also awkward when the interviewer only speaks one language (the norm in the USA) and the interviewer realizes the interviewee speaks several languages. The ESL teacher from abroad may be a lot more qualified, but he or she may have difficulty obtaining an ESL job for decent pay in his or her own country in the field of ESL after NEVER having trouble obtaining employment abroad. Ironic. Disappointing. Probably moving to another country and working independently is the only solution for re-entering “my field” of ESL/EFL.

  6. Many administrators don’t know the difference between a ESL certificate (120 hours) and an ESL license (demonstrated professional proficiency/testing). Another issue is that many believe that ESL and English/Language Arts mutually exclusive when the overlap can be quite substantial sometimes. Some HR people can’t get past their need to profile and believe that one type of credential is vastly different from another in content because the names of the credentials are different. As always, however, teaching is about getting the job done.

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