Few Aspiring Teachers Aim to Work With English-Learners, Report Finds

By Corey Mitchell — August 10, 2018 2 min read
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A sweeping new report on the state of teacher preparation finds that few aspiring educators are pursuing majors that would equip them to work with English-language learners and bilingual students.

In 2016, about 4 percent of the students who completed teacher preparation programs majored in English-as-a-second-language instruction while 2 percent majored in bilingual, multilingual, and multicultural education, according to federal data compiled by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

That same year, the U.S. Department of Education announced that at least 32 states have a shortage of teachers to work with English-learners.

The report from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education highlights the disconnect that often exists between the majors students choose and the personnel needs of schools: Nationwide, English-learners comprise roughly 10 percent of the K-12 public school population.

My colleague Madeline Will took a broad look at the report, Colleges of Education: A National Portrait, which concludes that fewer students are completing teacher-preparation programs than a decade ago.

The dearth of bilingual and ELL-trained instructors is not new. School districts have struggled for years to find qualified candidates, especially in immigrant-rich areas and communities where English is not the first language for many students.

On top of that, a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report found that teachers who work with English-learners are often underprepared.

In recent months, members of both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation (read more here and here) to address teacher shortages, with one bill focused exclusively on addressing the national shortage of ELL teachers and finding ways to better train them for the demands of the job.

But that legislation, The Reaching English Learners Act, has stalled in Congress.The bill would create a grant program under Title II of the Higher Education Act, the part of the law that governs teacher preparation, to pave the way for colleges and school districts to develop curricula for aspiring ELL teachers.

The grants would be designed to help develop educators who can recognize and address the social-emotional needs of English-learners, identify and teach English-learner students with disabilities, and promote family and community engagement in ELL programs.

The Reaching English Learners Act has 21 co-sponsors, many of them from states with large English-learner populations, but that support hasn’t generated any movement on Capitol Hill. No action has been taken on the bill since it was referred to the House education committee in January.

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Image Credit: Getty Images

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