As public schools move headlong into teaching new, more rigorous standards in reading, math, and science, English-as-a-second-language teachers must become more involved in the central enterprise of teaching and supporting academic content for ELL students than has traditionally been the case, a new paper argues.
Making that work for ESL professionals will require some major shifts in how these teachers are prepared before they ever enter the classroom, contend authors Guadalupe Valdés, Amanda Kibler, and Aída Walqui. (Valdés is an education professor at Stanford University, Kibler is an assistant professor of education at the University of Virginia, and Walqui directs teacher professional development for WestEd, a San Francisco-based education research, development, and services agency.)
Coursework in applied linguistics, second-language acquisition, and methods for teaching second-language learners in the areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking will no longer be enough, they say. For example, ESL teachers need to understand the language and language practices that are specific to different subject areas and disciplines.
"Although this does not mean that language teachers must become biology teachers or algebra teachers, it does imply that they need to understand how and why language is used in various disciplines," they write. The report goes into much more depth on the topic of ESL professionals and their role in the era of new academic content standards that expect and demand full participation of ELLs, regardless of their proficiency levels.
The paper was published last month by the TESOL International Association, the professional organization for teachers who specialize in working with English-learners.
Last fall, I wrote a story in Education Week about the changing role for ESL teachers in the shift to the common core and how, in a few districts around the country, those teachers are beginning to work much more closely with their content peers on supporting English-learners.