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It's Everyone's Job to Teach ELLs


It seems that an increasing number of schools are trying to get all teachers in a school to adapt their teaching methods to better reach English-language learners. The need for systemic approaches to improving the education of ELLs is a theme woven through several articles about such students published in the recent issue of R&D Alert, a newsletter of WestEd.

"EL Expertise: Not Just for Specialists Anymore" tells about a professional development model developed by Aida Walqui, the director of WestEd's teacher professional development program, and colleagues. Through the model, called Quality Teaching for English Learners, or QTEL, secondary school teachers in every discipline are coached in how to offer high-quality instruction for ELLs. New York City and Austin school districts are among those that have applied the QTEL approaches. In Austin, teachers receive professional development over a period of three years, receiving from 8 to 20 days of training each year. Sometimes teachers work with others who teach the same subject as they do, and other times they work with teachers of different subjects.

"Academic Language: Opening the Gate for English-Learners," tells about a whole-school professional development model created by WestEd for K-8 teachers. In this case, faculty and administrators attend workshops designed to help them better understand how language works and how to provide explicit instruction in reading and writing that can be applied to different content areas. They also receive on-going coaching. The Bellevue Union School District in California has tried this model.


It never has been just for experts but the experts better be there. Some rhetoric has been for getting rid of the TESOL teachers too. Even now, there are very few certified teachers in the United States. TESOL certification has generally been an endorsement and not a full certification in most states. Pennsylvania, unless I am not up to date on information, is the only state without an endorsement or certification. Willing teaching volunteers take "workshop courses" to be eligible to teach ESOL students. I think it is very necessary to build up that aspect of TESOL teaching before going on to the teaching isn't just for experts bandwagon or "Everybody's an expert!" But of course, everyone needs to be involved in helping ESOL students.

Many districts may be similar to ours where 51% of the students classified as English Learners have been in the U.S.A. their entire school career. By the time they arrive at our high school doors they are not enrolled in English as a Second Language classes. These are the students that reach intermediate fluency and get stuck at that level. Many of these EL students struggle in the core content classes due to a lack of academic language proficiency. That is why there is a need for all teachers in our district to develop proficiency in developing academic language in the course of their content area instruction. Our teachers need to become skilled at teaching both the content and the language skills that facilitate learning the content.

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