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Equity & Diversity

School Districts Get Creative to Fill English-Learner Teaching Vacancies, Survey Finds

By Corey Mitchell — April 11, 2019 2 min read

More of the nation’s largest school districts are relying on alternative certification programs, partnerships with colleges, and grow-your-own programs to fill English-language-learner teaching vacancies, according to a new report from the Council of the Great City Schools.

The report, “English Language Learners in America’s Great City Schools,” updates data collected for the council’s 2013 study of English-language-learner programs. Based on a 2017 survey of member districts, the new version examines data on English-learner enrollment, linguistic diversity, student achievement, professional development, and staffing.

Finding and hiring multilingual teachers has long been a trouble spot for school systems, with districts struggling to find enough qualified candidates, especially in communities where English is not the first language for many students.

Overall, the 70-plus Council of the Great City Schools districts—excluding recent additions Puerto Rico and Toronto—educate roughly 25 percent of the estimated 4.9 million English-learners in the nation’s public schools.

Some districts educate a much larger share of English-learners in their respective states: the Clark County schools in Las Vegas educate about 70 percent of Nevada’s English-learners while the Providence school district enrolls half of the English-learners in Rhode Island.

While the number of English-language learners in many large districts in on the rise, the report found that some states are not establishing credentialing requirements for teachers who educate those students.

Half of the districts that participated in that portion of the survey found that that their respective states had no requirements for general education and special education teachers who work with English-learners and 29 percent reported having no state requirements for content-area teachers who work with English-learners, even though ELLs spend most of the school day with general education teachers.

Here are some other key findings:


  • About 92 percent of English-learner students in the council’s member districts speak Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, or Vietnamese.
  • To fill English-learner teaching vacancies, more districts are partnering with colleges and universities and developing “grow-your-own” programs.
  • More districts are offering ELL-related professional development to principals.
  • Across the districts, English-learners were just as likely as their native-English-speaking peers to complete Algebra I by the end of 9th grade.

Here’s a copy of the report:

CGCS_ELL Survey Report by corey_c_mitchell on Scribd

Related Reading

Bilingual Teachers Are in Short Supply. How Can Schools Cultivate Their Own?

High-Quality Teaching Materials for ELLS is Goal of New Initiative

English-Learners Are a Diverse Group. How Can Schools Meet Their Needs?

Teaching English-Language Learners: What Does the Research Tell Us?

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