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Wanted: Bilingual Staff

"Who Will Teach Our Children?"

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Illinois requires some of its publicly funded preschool programs to provide either bilingual or English-as-a-second-language instruction to students who are English-language-learners, a policy it adopted four years ago that is considered groundbreaking.

But a surveyRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader of more than 350 of the preschool programs in the state reveals a major shortage of early-childhood teachers who are trained to deliver such instruction to young ELL pupils. That finding—among others—comes as Illinois' mandate to develop bilingual skills in the state's 3- and 4-year-olds is just a little more than a year away from taking full effect. Beginning in 2014, teachers who work in state-funded, district-administered preschool classrooms with 20 or more English-learners must hold certification in either bilingual instruction or ESL, in addition to standard credentials in early-childhood education.

The survey found that less than 6 percent of the workforce in the early-childhood field actually has the training and skills necessary to work with Illinois' large and growing population of young English-learners. And administrators who run such programs report that there is, at best, tepid interest among early-childhood teachers in becoming certified as either bilingual instructors or ESL teachers.

Those, and other key findings, were released last week by New Journalism on Latino Children, a project based at the University of California, Berkeley; the Illinois Early Learning Council; and the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum.

Even in Latino-heavy communities, the ratios of ell preschoolers to teachers with bilingual training is 50-to-1, according to the survey. Overall, Latinos account for nearly 25 percent of Illinois' public school enrollment.

Vol. 32, Issue 06, Page 5

Published in Print: October 3, 2012, as Wanted: Bilingual Staff
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