A new report out by the Center for American progress examines the challenges and successes in training all teachers to instruct the fastest growing student population in the country: English language learners (ELLs). The report, “Preparing All Teachers to Meet the Needs of English Language Learners” touches on the growing numbers of ELL students, the lack of sufficient and consistent information available to teachers, and how to improve the way ELLs are educated in practice by ensuring that all teachers, not just ESL specialists, are trained to teach speakers of other languages.
As teacher evaluation becomes a stronger focus of public education through the nearly unanimous adoption of the Common Core Standards, evaluations will be affected by how teachers can foster success among ELLs, a group that performs below non-ELL students on the standardized tests that measure school performance. The report points out that a general education teacher who knows the content and pedagogy to teach to the grade-level standards will also need specific knowledge and skills to help ELLs access the curricula.
The education of ELLs remains controversial in how teachers present information to them, bilingual education versus immersion, and fostering native language literacy skills. Nonetheless, it’s crucial that general education teachers be aware of the issues and unique challenges that face ELLs in order to teach them effectively. The report identifies particular areas that all teachers should be familiar with as they teach ELLs, such as the importance of attending to oral language development, supporting academic language, and encouraging teachers’ cultural sensitivity to the backgrounds of their students. The authors of the report, Jennifer F. Samson and Brian A. Collins, argue that these areas must be integrated in all levels of teacher training, from certification to evaluation and professional development, in order to improve the outcomes of ELLs. It’s at the systemic level that the education of ELLs must be addressed, both in how teachers are trained and in education policy at all levels.
Samson and Collins recommend that consistent and specific guidelines on the oral language, academic language, and cultural needs of ELLs be addressed in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, revisions to the NCATE standards, state regulations and certification exams, and teacher training.
For the full report, visit http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/04/teachers_ell.html.