Study: Teacher Exchanges Are Pipeline for Bilingual Teachers

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 20, 2009 1 min read
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Some school districts are helping to fill a shortage of bilingual teachers through international teacher exchanges, but that strategy for alleviating shortages is still “relatively unexplored,” according to a report released yesterday by the Migration Policy Institute.

Researchers Aaron Terrazas and Michael Fix give an overview of how school districts are participating in the short-term U.S.-Mexico Binational Migrant Education Program and long-term exchanges under cooperative agreements with Spain or Mexico to bring foreign teachers to their communities.

Most teachers with the binational migrant education program work for U.S. school districts during the summer, not during the regular school year. They generally provide supplemental education to students who have had gaps in their schooling during the academic year.

But teachers coming to the United States through the cooperative agreements with Spain or Mexico typically work in districts throughout the school year. The report says that many teach English-as-a-second-language or bilingual courses in elementary schools. In my reporting on these exchanges, I’ve also found that a fair number teach Spanish-language classes at the secondary level.

The numbers of teachers hired in U.S. school districts through these exchanges aren’t big. Since 1992, 4,700 teachers from Spain have been employed in U.S. schools through the U.S.-Spain visiting-teacher program. And since 2001, 182 teachers have been employed through the U.S.-Mexico visiting-teacher program.

Mexico has agreements with California, New Mexico, Utah, Illinois, and Oregon for long-term exchanges. Spain has agreements with 31 states, including California and New York.

The report provides in one place the available data about these programs. So it’s a handy source for any district that may be considering this option.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.