The Ogden City School District in Ogden, Utah, has put in place a policy that I’ve found to be rare in school districts. For at least six years, the school district has been requiring all of its new teachers to get an endorsement to teach English as a second language within the first three years of employment.
I learned about this policy from my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, who just visited the Ogden City district to write about how it implements its federal Reading First grant.
Rich Moore, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the district, told me in a phone interview that 26 percent of the district’s 12,300 students are English-language learners and if teachers are to succeed in teaching them, they’re going to have to have some special skills.
Most of the English-language learners in the district are Spanish-speaking. About 1,400 come from migrant families who seek agricultural jobs, such as planting and harvesting onions in the area, Mr. Moore said.
He said the 18 semester hours of courses required for an ESL endorsement in Utah heighten teachers’ awareness and understanding of language-acquisition issues. The district also requires all veteran teachers to take two courses, worth a total of 6 semester hours, on how to teach English-language learners. The district pays the costs of the courses.
During the time the policy has been in place, the district had to dismiss only two teachers who didn’t want to get their ESL endorsement, Mr. Moore explained. “That’s fine,” he added. “We want teachers who are really wanting to meet the learning needs of all our students.”
I’d like to hear from readers. Do you know of any other school districts that require all teachers to take courses in how to teach English-language learners? If so, what difference in instruction is such a policy making?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.