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You Don't Want to Get an ESL Endorsement? Need Not Apply


The Ogden City School District in Ogden, Utah, has put in place a policy that I've found to be rare in school districts. For at least six years, the school district has been requiring all of its new teachers to get an endorsement to teach English as a second language within the first three years of employment.

I learned about this policy from my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, who just visited the Ogden City district to write about how it implements its federal Reading First grant.

Rich Moore, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the district, told me in a phone interview that 26 percent of the district's 12,300 students are English-language learners and if teachers are to succeed in teaching them, they're going to have to have some special skills.

Most of the English-language learners in the district are Spanish-speaking. About 1,400 come from migrant families who seek agricultural jobs, such as planting and harvesting onions in the area, Mr. Moore said.

He said the 18 semester hours of courses required for an ESL endorsement in Utah heighten teachers' awareness and understanding of language-acquisition issues. The district also requires all veteran teachers to take two courses, worth a total of 6 semester hours, on how to teach English-language learners. The district pays the costs of the courses.

During the time the policy has been in place, the district had to dismiss only two teachers who didn't want to get their ESL endorsement, Mr. Moore explained. "That's fine," he added. "We want teachers who are really wanting to meet the learning needs of all our students."

I'd like to hear from readers. Do you know of any other school districts that require all teachers to take courses in how to teach English-language learners? If so, what difference in instruction is such a policy making?


Check out Arizona. The state is requiring all teachers to have a specified amount of hours in teaching ESL students which they call and SEI Endorsement. Structured English Immersion. I think this is a wonderful idea. Most of what you learn are GOOD teaching strategies that can be applied to all learners and in all classrooms. It opens the eyes of many people to the stuggles of those learning ACADEMIC English versus just spoken English. Good for you Utah!!!!!

We're doing the same thing in Pinellas County, Florida. Any classroom teacher who has an ELL (English language learner) must take training through the district (300 hours for language arts teachers, 60 hours for others who teach an academic subject, and 18 hours for those who teach elective courses or who are counselors and administrators).

The local colleges include the ESOL endorsement as part of the course sequence of studies for their education majors.

I think that the program is far more effective at the college level. Those new teachers who are learning about ELLs before they enter the classroom are prepared and, in some cases, even excited to be working with this population. On the other hand, in the school district, those teachers who have been required to take the training often do so because they have to - not because they are looking forward to learning about innovative ways of accommodating these students' needs. In addition, the county's training program, which consists of bits and pieces of ESOL-type material that is spoon-fed to the participants, is far inferior to the endorsement that the students at a college would earn.

I think it is important for teachers to be able to serve every student they have. In order to serve ELLs, we must learn as much as we can about their needs.

Robyn and Earl: I really appreciate your sharing information that you know on the state or school district level. I'm hoping that more readers of this blog will feel comfortable doing that. Now, it's so hit and miss, what I hear about concerning ELLs in the classroom from my sunlit office cubicle here in Bethesda, Maryland.

In our district in California, we are all required to have a CLAD credential and complete additional courses in SEI or SDAIE. Any teacher who had not completed this certification within 3-5 years was dismissed in the middle of the year. We are a program improvement district with a large population of Vietnamese, Spanish, Cambodian, and other language speakers.

Harrisonburg, VA has the highest percentage of ESL students in VA - currently 38%. All teachers and administrators are required to take continuing education courses geared to teaching ESL students. To set an example from the top, even the Superintendent has been through the training. While the division employs specific bi-lingual ESL teachers, with the high percentage of students that speak more than 40 languages, every teacher has become an ESL teacher and the division's results have been great - all elementary schools are making AYP!

While going for my bachelors, I received certification in both Elementary and Special Education. Amazingly enough, my roommate was just getting her certification in Elementary. When I questioned her about getting one certification, she commented that she only wanted to work with 'regular' students.

I find it amazing that people actually think that they can teach a mainstream class without dual certification. I actually started my masters with a Reading masters and switched to a TESOL or ESL certification after accidentally taking a TESOL class. I was amazed how all the ESL teachers were taking the classes to help their students. Unlike the feeling from my Reading classes, all of the ESL teachers knew the personal lives of their students and enjoyed finding new ways to teach them.

After teaching first and third grades in the mainstream classroom, I have spent the last 6 years teaching ESL. One day, I plan on one day going back to the mainstream classroom and I hope that my knowledge of all content areas in all 6 elementary grade levels and working with numerous special needs students will be a good selling point to any school.

I question how many mainstream teachers are fully able to teach children with special needs (including ESL students) in their classroom without getting dual or triple certification. So many children are in our classrooms struggling with disabilities that haven't been identified yet or aren't 'bad' enough for the district to provide services for. Without a qualified teacher, these students would never be able to achieve the things they could if their teacher was able to adapt their lessons so that they could learn the same things the other students are required to learn.

My only wish is that ESL students learn and participate all day while they're in school, not just while they are in my class. Watching my students sit idle in the class, dazed and confused because the teacher is lecturing or reviewing their failed tests with words they wouldn't be able to read or understand for another year or two makes me wish every teacher was required to take classes in ESL. Then, maybe my student's first year in this country wouldn't be so tramatic or difficult.

I'm a doc student in EL at the U of NV, Reno. I'm doing a policy analysis research project on this exact topic! I'm grateful to have found this conversation. I have to follow the policies, state law, etc. If anyone has any info about the state laws and district policies that support these initiatives, I'd appreciate it!

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