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How Much ESL Training Do Reading Teachers Need?


A number of states are looking at how to ensure that mainstream teachers who work with English-language learners receive training in how to teach them. Florida requires some of the most extensive English-as-a-second-language training of any state for English-language arts and reading teachers who have ELLs in their classrooms. Some educators think Florida is too demanding in its requirements of reading teachers and are pushing for passage of a bill in the state's legislature to reduce the number of hours required. Others think that the quality of education for ELLs would suffer if the requirements were softened. See "Florida Bill Would Ease ESL-Training Mandate," which was published online at edweek.org on April 4.

For more on this on-going debate, see "Disagreement Over Florida's Requirements for Teachers of ELLs."


I spoke with someone from a university in Florida a couple of years ago. At that time I learned that Florida had mandated classroom teachers receive 6 hours for regular certification to teach ESOL students but it had received a waiver from the state to provide ESOL services and use TESOL teachers so services in Florida were greatly reduced. The idea of having regular teachers receive 6 credits to teach ESOL students is very important but not at the expense of ESOL services and TESOL teachers. I don't know about the reading teacher scenario but I suspect they are being used instead of TESOL teachers to teach ESOL because Florida did away with them. It is nice to have Reading Teachers help with ESOL students especially those who have been here for 3 or more years and who are in the stages of developing academic language in reading and writing. They are generally trained in teaching remedial learners and it would not be surprising if ESOL kids would be treated as remedial learners by them. Florida has a long way to go in working with ESOL students and I don't think they are the most successful state in TESOL education. They are not the most successful state in general education and that has a big impact on whether ESOL students are successful also.

Florida ESOL rules and statutes were developed in response to the 1990 Consent Decree that stems from LULAC vs. Florida Board of Education. The order of a Federal District Court Judge determines who is required to earn ESOL Endorsement in Florida. Teachers who provide instruction in the English language to ESOL students (Elementary, Special Education, Language Arts, Reading, and ESOL teachers) are required to earn ESOL credentials by completing coursework or inservice training in Applied Linguistics, Testing, Multicultural Education, Curriculum, and Methods. The DOE's Reverse Crosswalk option awards credit to Reading teachers for ESOL competencies included in the Reading Endorsement. Reading teachers are required to earn credit in Applied Linguistics and ESOL Methods and to complete a practicum. In Broward, the practicum consists of writing three lesson plans.

Teachers of science, math, social studies, and computer literacy; guidance counselors, and school site administrators are required to earn 60 ESOL inservice points. Teachers of all other subjects are required to earn 18 inservice points. As the Consent Decree applies only to Florida, there is no other state that provides a valid comparison. It is interesting, however, to consider not only who is required to earn ESOL credentials, but also what the requirements consist of.

Eighty four percent of the states (forty-four states and the District of Columbia) offer ESL certification or endorsement. Study of pedagogy, linguistics, and diversity are included in the requirements by at least 19 states. Several states require a total of 24 semester hours credit for eligibility for endorsement. At least one state requires study of the difference between literacy development in the first and second language and an
additional course that must address reading instruction to English language learners. Requirements for study of a second foreign language range from six semester hours to two years.

As the state with the country's fourth largest immigrant population, it may be time for Florida to upgrade it's ESOL professional development requirements to be on a par with those of other states.

I just found your blog and I am very pleased to see that you are addressing the issue of bilingual education, as I feel it is a very important subject that is often not given the attention it deserves. Coming from a Hispanic family, I can identify with many of the issues you discuss in your posts. I really found this blog interesting, as I am a student in my last year of college, preparing to enter my credential program. More than once, I have wondered what type of preparation I am going to receive in my credential program on how to effectively teach to English language learners.

I was very interested to hear that Florida has placed such high demands on bilingual education training programs, but I was not surprised since there are so many Hispanics in the state (particularly Cubans). I tend to believe, without much data on the subject, that the high demands placed on teachers to learn to teach English language learners would be effective in the classroom. However, I would have to look at the results to see if students are doing better because of the additional training on this subject. Are Florida students doing better compared to other states who do not place these high demands on teachers? If studies show that students are doing better in Florida than in other states who do not require this additional training, then I would presume that this program is effective and, therefore, should be kept. However, if the additional training does not appear to be providing additional benefits, then maybe the requirements should be loosened a little, until a more effective method is created.

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