Unprepared in Kansas

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 08, 2008 1 min read
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I’m hearing a lot of talk lately about the need for teachers to be trained to work with English-language learners. Only a few states require all teachers to receive such training, so it wasn’t surprising that in a recent audit by the Kansas legislature of second- and third-year teachers in that state, 60 percent of teachers who have taught ELLs in their first few years of teaching (and responded to a survey) said they didn’t feel adequately prepared to do so.

The Kansas survey also found that teachers who graduated from academic programs that stress hands-on experience in creating lesson plans for ELLs during student teaching tended to feel more prepared to teach ELLs than those who didn’t have such practical experience. Also, teachers said that they felt better prepared to teach those ELLs who were more proficient in English.

The 2,400 teachers surveyed had attended Kansas colleges and universities and not obtained an endorsement to teach English as a second language. The response rate of teachers was 25 percent. The audit says that some teacher-preparation programs in Kansas embed small amounts of ESL training into required methods courses. Others require specific courses focused on teaching ESL. To get an endorsement in ESL, teachers must take 15-18 college credit hours in addition to their regular coursework and pass a test on ESL content.

Florida is one of the states that requires all teachers to receive training in how to work with ELLs, and some educators have felt that too many hours of training were required for reading teachers. A bill that proposed reducing the amount of in-service hours in ESL required of reading teachers, which I wrote about last month, did not pass in the most recent session of the Florida legislature to the delight of a number of TESOL professors who opposed such a paring back of the requirement. (See “ESOL training rules may stay the same,” an April 30 article in the Miami Herald.)

Food for thought: The Linguistic Minority Research Institute of the University of California has published a newsletter article by Barbara Merino spelling out “critical competencies” for teachers of English-learners (Find the Summer 2007 issue).

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