A new report released by Californians Together shows that many school districts across the state are currently facing a growing bilingual teacher shortage, and that in the near term, there is a pool of at least 7,000 bilingual teachers who are well positioned to begin to address this shortage, and need to be supported with professional development.
As more families choose language programs that lead to biliteracy for their children, the state should make it a priority to address this shortage without delay. But this is just the beginning. Of equal importance is building the bilingual teacher pipeline that will ensure sure programs succeed. These are the main recommendations presented in a report by Californians Together, a statewide group whose mission is to championing the success of English Learners.
The report confirms the fact that many districts fear facing shortages of bilingual teachers. Eighty six percent of those who participated in the survey anticipate major shortages with the expansion and growth of new programs. Despite this, few districts have a formal plan to deal with shortages, which could leave many students without access to the significant benefits of multilingualism.
"Almost 3 out of 4 voters supported Prop. 58 in November calling for multilingual programs in our schools. Without experienced and prepared bilingual teachers, districts will be unable to offer students the education that prepares them for a multilingual, interconnected and interdependent world," says Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, Executive Director of Californians Together.
Research shows young children are wired to learn multiple languages, that the brain is most receptive to language learning in the earliest years of life, and that the home language is central to developing English proficiency and overall academic achievement.
The good news is that there are nearly 7,000 bilingual teachers, the majority of whom would be willing to teach in bilingual programs if they could have access to needed supports. Bilingual teachers need support to get caught up on the current research, pedagogy and best practices, opportunities to strengthen their second language, and additional compensation.
To ensure there is an adequate supply of teachers in the long term, the report recommends that higher education teacher preparation programs expand bilingual certification and credentialing opportunities, and that future bilingual teachers are recruited from among the 126,000 students who earn the Seal of Biliteracy.
"There's no time to waste, we must advocate to make sure critical investments are in place so we may fully equip our current bilingual teachers to serve California students now, and develop the infrastructure to build the pipeline that meets the growing demand of families for bilingual education," said Dr. Magaly Lavadenz, President of Californians Together.