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Unprepared in Kansas


I'm hearing a lot of talk lately about the need for teachers to be trained to work with English-language learners. Only a few states require all teachers to receive such training, so it wasn't surprising that in a recent audit by the Kansas legislature of second- and third-year teachers in that state, 60 percent of teachers who have taught ELLs in their first few years of teaching (and responded to a survey) said they didn't feel adequately prepared to do so.

The Kansas survey also found that teachers who graduated from academic programs that stress hands-on experience in creating lesson plans for ELLs during student teaching tended to feel more prepared to teach ELLs than those who didn't have such practical experience. Also, teachers said that they felt better prepared to teach those ELLs who were more proficient in English.

The 2,400 teachers surveyed had attended Kansas colleges and universities and not obtained an endorsement to teach English as a second language. The response rate of teachers was 25 percent. The audit says that some teacher-preparation programs in Kansas embed small amounts of ESL training into required methods courses. Others require specific courses focused on teaching ESL. To get an endorsement in ESL, teachers must take 15-18 college credit hours in addition to their regular coursework and pass a test on ESL content.

Florida is one of the states that requires all teachers to receive training in how to work with ELLs, and some educators have felt that too many hours of training were required for reading teachers. A bill that proposed reducing the amount of in-service hours in ESL required of reading teachers, which I wrote about last month, did not pass in the most recent session of the Florida legislature to the delight of a number of TESOL professors who opposed such a paring back of the requirement. (See "ESOL training rules may stay the same," an April 30 article in the Miami Herald.)

Food for thought: The Linguistic Minority Research Institute of the University of California has published a newsletter article by Barbara Merino spelling out "critical competencies" for teachers of English-learners (Find the Summer 2007 issue).


Florida Sunshine State TESOL had its yearly conference in Daytona Beach this weekend and I spent a little bit of time there talking to classroom teachers from around the State. Concerns were expressed regarding instructional services to English Language Learners. Classroom teachers also expressed relief that SB0286 failed for a second year.

The bill’s co-sponsor, Representative Jennifer Carroll, submitted an amendment establishing two courses and a practicum for Reading teachers to complete in order to serve ELLs and the establishment of an ESOL/Reading Task Force. The amended bill passed the Florida House unanimously. However, according to the Miami Herald, Senator Wise believed that the professional development hours in the amendment were still too many and announced he would let the bill die rather than bring the amended bill for Senate vote. That’s what happened, the bill died.

Florida Sunshine State TESOL Advocacy E-Group remains hopeful that the DOE will proceed with the establishment of an ESOL/Reading Task Force through which ESOL and Reading professionals, classroom teachers, and second language acquisition experts fully examine current training to determine the skills teachers need to serve ELLs and propose improvements that lead to quality training and quality outcomes.

Through this two year process, it has been clarified that:

• Teaching reading to ELLs is not the same as teaching reading to native speakers.
• Second language acquisition experts and ESOL professionals have important contributions to policy and educational decision-making.
• The 1990 META Consent Decree cannot be ignored

The delight expressed by TESOL professionals is shared by the members of community based organizations in the state. The Florida League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC Florida) will hold it's annual convention on May 24-25 in Doral, Florida. The conference will be largely devoted to the theme of activism and to a celebration of the demise (for the second year in a row) of the ESOL Inservice bill in its original form.

At the brunch, speakers will describe the history of the LULAC v. Florida Board of Education Consent Decree and of the ESOL bill (SB 286). In the afternoon,, attorneys will explain the rights of parents as set forth in the Consent Decree. Throughout the conference, parents, educators, elected local officials, and community leaders and organizations who supported ESOL students and the requirements of the Consent Decree will be recognized.

At the Gala Dinner the legislators who responded to the community's outcry about the ESOL bill will be honored. That bipartisan and multiethnic group includes all of Florida's 119 Representatives and six Senators.

Besides Florida, which states require all teachers to be trained to work with ELLs?

Catherine: I found in my reporting recently that Arizona, California, Florida, and Virginia require training for all teachers to work with ELLs. In Virginia, though, it can be only part of a course taken during a teacher-education program; it doesn't have to be even a whole course. The blog item above has a link to one of my articles in Education Week that tells more about the requirements in those states.

Mary Ann Zehr
Learning the Language

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