A Case for Training All Teachers to Meet Needs of ELLs

By Lesli A. Maxwell — April 30, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Some 25 percent of public school students live in homes where English is not the primary language. That statistic alone seems sufficient reason to expect that all teachers will at some point have students who need support in learning English.

So it is reasonable to ask—and propose answers—to the question of whether every single teacher, regardless of grade level or discipline, needs to know how to meet the particular needs of ELLs. I hear it all the time from folks in the field—that until ALL teachers are trained in how to work with English-learners, these students, as a subgroup, will always trail far behind their native English-speaking peers. And that sentiment has grown especially strong since all but four states are moving ahead with putting the more rigorous common standards into practice.

Today, the Center for American Progress has put out a new paper which makes the argument that general education teachers need to be steeped in the same instructional strategies as bilingual education and English-as-a-second language teachers are, in order to support their ELL students.

Authors Jennifer F. Samson and Brian A. Collins combed through the research to outline the standards, knowledge, and skills that bilingual and ESL teachers need for teaching ELLs effectively and argue that general education teachers need the same. Things like oral language development, helping students acquire academic language, and understanding the unique cultural attributes of students whose first language is not English. Those areas, say the authors, must be woven into every layer of education policy and practice from top to bottom: the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a revision of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher standards, state regulations, teacher preparation programs, state certification exams, and performance evaluations.

The paper takes a particularly close look at state policies specific to English-learners and highlights some of the wild variations in requirements for all teachers. A few states, all of which happen to have a long history with English-learners (Arizona, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York), require all teachers to take specific coursework related to ELLs as a condition for certification, but 15 states have no such requirement.

There’s a whole lot more to mull in this report. Take a look and discuss your thoughts in the comments.

Related Tags:

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

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States During Site Visit From Cardona, Illinois Governor Defends Vaccine, Testing Policies
“The testing regimen is there in order to make sure that they’re not entering the institution where they work and spreading COVID-19.”
Karen Ann Cullotta, Chicago Tribune
3 min read
The Student Council lead the creation of “sensory hallways” at Western Branch Middle School in Chesapeake, Va.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona looks on as Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks with reporters after touring Access Hawthorne Family Health Center, which is offering COVID-19 vaccines at 3040 S. Cicero Ave. in Cicero, as part of the Department of Education's "Return to School Road Trip" events in the Chicago area, Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP
States Kentucky Ends All Statewide Mask Mandates After Governor's Vetoes Overridden
The Republican-led legislation strips the Democratic governor's ability to issue statewide mask mandates in schools or anywhere else.
Jack Brammer and Alex Acquisto, Lexington Herald-Leader
4 min read
In this Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addresses the media in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky's governor said Sunday, Oct. 11, that he will quarantine after a member of his security detail who drove with his family the day before later tested positive for COVID-19. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said he and his family feel fine, show no coronavirus symptoms and have tested negative for the virus.
In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addresses the media in Frankfort, Ky.
Timothy D. Easley/AP
States Bill to Restrict How Race and Racism Is Taught in Schools Headed to Texas Governor
If the "critical race theory" bill sounds familiar, that's because lawmakers passed a similar one during the regular legislative session.
Eleanor Dearman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
4 min read
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Eric Gay/AP
States Infographic Which States Are Reporting COVID-19 Cases in Schools?
Some states are reporting the number of COVID-19 cases in their schools and districts. Use this table to find your state's data.
Image shows the coronavirus along with data charts and numbers.
iStock/Getty Images Plus