English-Language Learners

For Illinois’ Preschools, Bilingual Teachers Are In Short Supply

By Lesli A. Maxwell — September 25, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Illinois requires some of its publicly funded preschool programs to provide either bilingual or English as a second-language instruction to students who are ELLs, a policy it adopted four years ago and one still considered to be groundbreaking for young English-learners.

But a new survey of more than 350 of the state’s preschool programs reveals a major shortage of early childhood teachers who are actually trained to deliver such instruction to young ELLs. That finding—among others—presents a difficult impediment just as Illinois’ mandate to develop bilingual skills in the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds is just a little over a year away from taking full effect. Beginning in 2014, teachers who work in state-funded, school-district administered preschool classrooms with 20 or more ELLs must hold certification in either bilingual instruction or ESL, in addition to the standard early childhood education credentials.

Less than six percent of the early childhood workforce actually has the training and skills necessary to work with Illinois’ large—and growing—population of young English-learners. And administrators who run such programs report that there is, at best, tepid interest among early childhood teachers in becoming certified as either a bilingual instructor or an ESL teacher.

Those, and other key findings, were released today by the New Journalism on Latino Children, based at the University of California at Berkeley; the Illinois Early Learning Council; and the Chicago-based Latino Policy Forum. The survey collected information on the education and certifications of teachers who work in preschool programs funded by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Even in Latino-heavy communities, the ratios of ELL preschoolers to teachers with bilingual training is 50:1, according to the survey. Overall, Latinos make up nearly 25 percent of Illinois’ public school enrollment. Their proportion is slightly higher for children in the under-5 set, where one in four is Latino and one third of those kids are English-learners. Within the more than 350 preschool programs which responded to the survey, ELLs represent more than 25 percent of the 65,000 students in those programs.

Given these figures, it seems unlikely that many programs will be able to provide the number of dually credentialed teachers they need to in time to meet the 2014 deadline and raises important questions about the viability of the Illinois approach. Is this a case where the good intentions of the policy were too far ahead of the capacity to deliver?

Syliva Puente, the executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, said during a webinar discussion of the survey findings that “it’s pretty clear that we won’t have enough teachers in the next 15 months, so it is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

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


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org 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.


Events

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.
Sponsor
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.
Sponsor
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

English-Language Learners Spotlight Spotlight on Bilingual Instruction
In this Spotlight, identify potential gaps in your schools, evaluate dual-language education programs, and more.
English-Language Learners Opinion Q&A Collections: Teaching English-Language Learners
Ten years' worth of posts sharing the advice of over 100 experienced teachers of English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
English-Language Learners Opinion Four Educator-Recommended Approaches for Teaching English-Language Learners
Five educators recommend classroom strategies for teaching ELLs, including translanguaging & consistency.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
English-Language Learners Opinion The Six Most Effective Instructional Strategies for ELLs—According to Teachers
Teachers share their "go-to" strategies for teaching English-language learners, including sentence starters and Total Physical Response.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty