Calif. Is Short 14,000 Bilingual 6 Teachers, Panel Finds
California is more than 14,000 bilingual teachers short of meeting the needs of its limited-English-proficient students and is likely to fall even further behind unless sweeping recruitment efforts are undertaken, a state education department task force has concluded.
A 30-member task force on L.E.P. issues this month issued a report that included one of the most extensive plans yet for developing state policies to address the widespread lack of bilingual teachers.
In its report, the task force identified such short-term remedies as the hiring of foreign-trained teachers and such long-term measures as 3mounting an effort to recruit language-minority students into the eaching profession.
"The crisis can be resolved with creativity, flexibility, and additional finances," the task-force report said.
But "if conditions are left to deteriorate," the task force cautioned, "California will suffer disastrous economic and social consequences," including the derailment of education reforms and a shortage of qualified workers.
Norman C. Gold, a bilingual-education consultant to the California Department of Education, said many of the recommendations in the task-force report already have been adopted by the department as part of its bilingual-staffing initiative. He noted, however, that a lack of funding from the state has stalled implementation of parts of the plan.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig created the Task Force on Selected L.E.P. Issues in the spring of 1989 and instructed its members to find both immediate and long-term remedies to the state's chronic shortage of qualified teachers for L.E.P. students.
Consisting primarily of educators, policymakers, and experts on language minorities, the task force assessed the need for bilingual teachers and studied successful models for recruiting them.
The task force found that schools in the state had enrolled more than 861,000 L.E.P. students, requiring about 22,370 trained bilingual teachers. However, only about 8,000 teachers were credentialed in bilin gual education as of spring 1990, and there was only one bilingual teacher available for every 107 L.E.P. students, according to the report.
The task force report said that changing demographics foretold a rise in the state's L.E.P. population as early as 10 years ago, but that the changes were not systematically tracked and analyzed for their effect on teacher-preparation programs. As a result, the report said, "the number of candidates entering teacher-training programs in uniL versities and colleges and in local school settings ... does not match the population growth of L.E.P. stu dents."
Noting that disproportionate numbers of language-minority students are failing to graduate from state universities, the task force identified an urgent need to improve the academic preparation of language-minority students so that they can enter such professions as teaching.
The academic achievement of California's L.E.P. students has suf fered as a result of the lack of quali fied staff and appropriate curricula, the report asserted, noting that the dropout rate from 1985 through 1988 was almost 31 percent for His panic students and approached 40 percent for other L.E.P. groups.
The task force recommended that the state superintendent immedi ately mount a major public-informa tion campaign about the bilingual- teacher shortage and take other steps within the education depart ment and through the legislature to direct resources toward the problem.
It also recommended that the edu cation department establish teach er-training programs and support legislation that provides pay differ entials for fully qualified teachers of L.E.P. students.
To quickly address the bilingual teacher shortage, the task force also said:
The education department should cooperate with local education agen cies and institutions of higher learn ing to give paraprofessionals training and financial incentives to become credentialed teachers.
The education department and the state commission on teacher creH dentialing should look for cultural bias and other potential impedi8ments to language minorities in the alifornia Basic Educational Skills Test, a required examination that continues to be a major obstacle to increasing the pool of credentialed bilingual teachers.The credentialing commission hould develop limited credentials for teachers trained overseas, and should collaborate with the educa tion department in providing stuL dents in California and elsewhere with information on bilingual teach ing opportunities in the state.
As long-term answers to the eacher shortage, the task force sug gested that colleges and universities and local education agencies cooper ate on recruitment plans to attract former L.E.P. students to the field of bilingual teaching. The task force also suggested that students be offered scholarships or have their student loans forgiven if they become teachers of L.E.P. stu dents. The University of California and California State University, the report said, should receive financial incentives for increasing their en rollments of candidates for bilinual-teaching credentials and relat ed academic specialties.
Vol. 10, Issue 39