Teacher Preparation

GAO: ELLs Get a ‘Partial Focus’ in Teacher-Prep Courses

By Mary Ann Zehr — August 19, 2009 1 min read

Prospective teachers are more likely to get training on students with disabilities than on English-language learners as part of their teacher-preparation programs, a Government Accountability Office study released today says. That’s the case even though the ELL population is one of the fastest-growing student populations in U.S. schools.

A majority of traditional teacher-prep programs have at least one course that focuses solely on how to educate students with disabilities while no more than 20 percent of teacher-prep programs require at least one course that focuses entirely on how to teach English-language learners, according to the study. ELLs are more often “a partial focus of required courses” than are students with disabilities, the study says.

In addition, a larger proportion of teacher-preparation programs require field experiences for prospective teachers with students with disabilities than with ELLs.

Interestingly, administrators of teacher-prep programs told the GAO that one of the main reasons they don’t have stiffer requirements for teachers to be trained to work with ELLs is that their state standards don’t require it of them.

The GAO notes that state standards sometimes include limitations on the maximum number of program or credit hours, so I can see how it could be a challenge for teacher-prep programs to add a requirement that everyone take a course devoted to teaching ELLs.

But I wonder if blaming the lack of standards is really just an excuse on the part of the teacher-prep programs for not keeping up with how school demographics are changing in the United States.

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