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GAO: ELLs Get a 'Partial Focus' in Teacher-Prep Courses

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Prospective teachers are more likely to get training on students with disabilities than on English-language learners as part of their teacher-preparation programs, a Government Accountability Office study released today says. That's the case even though the ELL population is one of the fastest-growing student populations in U.S. schools.

A majority of traditional teacher-prep programs have at least one course that focuses solely on how to educate students with disabilities while no more than 20 percent of teacher-prep programs require at least one course that focuses entirely on how to teach English-language learners, according to the study. ELLs are more often "a partial focus of required courses" than are students with disabilities, the study says.

In addition, a larger proportion of teacher-preparation programs require field experiences for prospective teachers with students with disabilities than with ELLs.

Interestingly, administrators of teacher-prep programs told the GAO that one of the main reasons they don't have stiffer requirements for teachers to be trained to work with ELLs is that their state standards don't require it of them.

The GAO notes that state standards sometimes include limitations on the maximum number of program or credit hours, so I can see how it could be a challenge for teacher-prep programs to add a requirement that everyone take a course devoted to teaching ELLs.

But I wonder if blaming the lack of standards is really just an excuse on the part of the teacher-prep programs for not keeping up with how school demographics are changing in the United States.

1 Comment

Re: "...no more than 20 percent of programs required at least one course entirely focused on English language learners. Additionally, more than half the programs required field experiences with students with disabilities, while less than a third did so for English language learners"

In New York City, ELL students and former ELL students together make up 1 out of every 4 students in the public schools. Most teachers, from elementary to high school levels, will have at least one ELL student in their classrooms. Many non-ELL specialist teachers already teach a number of such students without adequate preparation or ongoing professional development.

All teachers need to be prepared professionally to educate this population, including non-ELL specialists. Otherwise the dismal 4-year graduation rate of 30.8% (or 35%, as per NYC DOE figures), for current ELLs will continue.

Luis O. Reyes

Coordinator, CEEELL
[email protected]

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