Unprepared in Idaho, Too

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 19, 2008 1 min read
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Earlier this month I reported on how a legislative audit in Kansas found that many mainstream teachers in that state felt unprepared to teach English-language learners. It seems that teachers of English as a second language or bilingual education in Idaho think their mainstream colleagues aren’t well-prepared either to teach ELLs, according to findings from a survey, “Teachers’ Perceptions of ELL Education,” published in Multicultural Education. (I picked this up from TESOL in the News.)

The Kansas audit surveyed mainstream teachers in their second or third year of teaching. By contrast, the Idaho findings, researched by Ellen G. Batt, of the Albertson College of Idaho, are based on survey responses of 102 teachers who hold endorsements to teach bilingual education or ESL and are thus specialists in working with ELLs in Idaho.

When asked, “What are the three greatest challenges you face in educating ELLs?” 20 percent of Idaho respondents cited their nonspecialist colleagues’ lack of knowledge and skills in educating ELLs as one of their greatest challenges. One respondent wrote: “The problem in our school is that the mainstream teachers and administrators don’t understand [ELLs’] needs and how to teach them.”

The Idaho survey also asked the specialists what their own personal needs were for professional development to work better with ELLs. The top six priorities for professional development ranked by the teachers were parent involvement, ESL curriculum development, Spanish-language class, first- and second-language literacy methods, sheltered English instruction (in which teachers modify their use of English to make it more understandable for ELLs), ESL methods, and knowledge on how to establish a center for immigrants who are newcomers.

If any of you live in states that you feel are on the cutting edge in preparing mainstream teachers or specialists to work with ELLs, let me know what’s going on. I’d like to report on those efforts.

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