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New Teachers in Pennsylvania Soon Must Take ELL Course


Pennsylvania is requiring all its teacher-preparation programs to provide teacher-candidates with three credit hours of training in how to work with English-language learners and nine credit hours in how to work with special education students.

The regulation was approved in June. By Jan. 1, 2011, all colleges and universities in Pennsylvania must meet the mandate, according to Leah M. Harris, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania education department. "We looked at the makeup of our students and classroom instruction, and it was very evident that teachers don’t just deal with students that some people would say are regular students in their classrooms," she said.

The three-credit-hour requirement regarding teaching ELLs is only one course.

But only three states—Arizona, Florida, and New York—require all prospective teachers to receive training in how to work with ELLs, according to Quality Counts 2009, a report published by Education Week in January. Only 11 states have incentives such as scholarships or tuition reimbursements for teachers to get an endorsement to teach ELLs.

Pennsylvania doesn't recognize a stand-alone endorsement for teaching ELLs, Ms. Harris explained. Instead, teachers who specialize in teaching English-as-a-second-language in the state are required to be certified in another subject and to take 12 credits in how to work with ELLs on top of that. (The Pennsylvania education department has a Q&A about teaching ESL in the state.)

I checked out Pennsylvania's policies for teachers of ELLs after reading a piece, "The bar is low for ESOL teachers in Pa.," posted at The Notebook, an independent news source about public education in Philadelphia.


This is interesting. Who determined that new teachers need 9 credit hours (3 courses, I assume) to prepare to teach SPED students and only three credit hours (or one course) to prepare to teach ELLs? I can think of at least three relevant courses I needed to prepare to teach ELLs - and there are more. While I think preparing new teachers to teach ELLs with special ESL courses is a great idea, I fear that the new teachers are going to bear the burden of all ELL instruction while veteran teachers will not have to learn new teaching methods to accomodate our growing numbers of ELLs. This hardly seems fair. In school districts that only offer Sheltered English Instruction to ELLs of all levels of language proficiency, this is an unfair burden on new teachers. It would be nice if state educational agencies would offer monetary compensation to teachers who agree to take courses and teach ELLs.

Is Pennsylvania still the only state that doesn't even require an endorsement to teach ESOL? I hope that these 9 credit hours are supposed to make up for that. They have been the only state not to have any endorsement or certification for ESOL teachers in the nation. If you wanted to teach ESOL, you could, no questions asked as long as you were certified in the state for something else. I asked at a conference once where a ESOL expert was speaking about working with PA teachers whether certification was pending and the answer was that certification didn't mean teachers were very good and that it was irrelevant. Uncertified teachers could be good too!

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