English-Language Learners

N.J. Drops Bilingual-Certification Rules Requiring Demonstration of Proficiency

November 29, 1989 3 min read

By Peter Schmidt

A decision by the New Jersey Department of Education to drop its requirement that candidates for bilingual-teacher certification demonstrate proficiency in the language they will teach in has seriously weakened the state’s ability to ensure the quality of instruction, according to bilingual-education advocates.

The proficiency requirement, which had made New Jersey more stringent than most other states in its standards for bilingual instructors, was scrapped by the board this month as it revised rules on bilingual teachers and teachers of English as a second language.

Education-department officials argued that the state needed to shift the burden of judging language proficiency to the local districts, saying they would be better able to assess candidates for bilingual-teaching positions.

The new rules will improve the quality of bilingual teachers, the officials asserted, because they will allow more people to apply for positions, giving local districts a wider pool of job candidates from which to choose.

But bilingual-education advocates in the state say local districts will be less capable than the state was of assessing language skills, and that the revised rules do not require districts to assess language proficiency at all.

Response to a Shortage

The elimination of the proficiency requirement was one of several amendments and new rules approved by the state board Nov. 8 in response to a shortage of bilingual and e.s.l. teachers.

Leo F. Klagholz, director of teacher preparation and certification for the state, said the stringency of the old certification requirements forced almost every new bilingual and e.s.l. teacher to circumvent the process by seeking “emergency certification.”

Teachers who received emergency certification sometimes taught eight years or more without special supervision and without completing requirements, department officials said.

Under the new rules, bilingual instructors need only 6 credits in specialized instruction, and esl teachers need only 12 credits. The old requirements were 24 and 30 credits, respectively.

Also gone is the requirement that e.s.l.-certification candidates who are already certified in another area demonstrate their proficiency in English.

Local Responsibility

A summary of the code changes released by Commissioner of Education Saul Cooperman said the new rules “would charge local employers with the responsibility for choosing candidates who possess foreign-language proficiency appropriate to the students and programs in which they will teach.”

But Alfred A. Slocum, public advocate for the state, wrote in a letter to the department that the new certification rule “charges nothing of the sort ... since it is absolutely silent with respect to any second language requirements.”

“If the [state education department] is proposing to delegate this responsibility to local districts,” Mr. Slocum wrote, “it seeks to do so only by the implication to be drawn only from [its] silence on the subject.”

Under the old system, candidates for bilingual certification were interviewed for language proficiency at local colleges.

Tapes of the interviews were then passed on to a clearinghouse, which sent them to reviewers who had been certified by the Educational Testing Service.

Mr. Klagholz said the state was uncomfortable with the system because it could not directly ensure the language proficiency of the people reviewing the tapes, especially when the tapes were in an uncommon language.

“Rather than us assuming the accountability without providing any meaningful assurances, we put the responsibility on the districts,” he said.

But bilingual-education advocates said they doubted that local districts could be trusted to hire proficient teachers.

“A lot of the people who do the hiring are monolingual themselves,” noted Ruth A. Thomas, editor of the newsletter of the New Jersey Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Language/Bilingual Educators Association.

A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 1989 edition of Education Week as N.J. Drops Bilingual-Certification Rules Requiring Demonstration of Proficiency

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
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
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
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

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 Bilingualism and Remote Learning - Second Edition
In this Second Edition Spotlight, evaluate how schools will measure learning loss for English-learners and more.
English-Language Learners Millions of ELL Students Face Prospect of In-Person, Federal Testing During COVID-19
As the coronavirus surges, ELL advocates and testing groups weigh the value of remote testing.
7 min read
In this Thursday, May 23, 2013 photo, students line up for recess at Jay W. Jeffers Elementary School in Las Vegas. More than 80 of the school's incoming kindergartners don’t speak English.
In this Thursday, May 23, 2013 photo, students line up for recess at Jay W. Jeffers Elementary School in Las Vegas. More than 80 percent of the school's incoming kindergartners don’t speak English.
Julie Jacobson/AP
English-Language Learners Spotlight Spotlight on Bilingualism and Remote Learning
In this Spotlight, discover how educators are remotely assessing English-learners and more.
English-Language Learners How Will Schools Teach English-Language Learners This Fall?
A new database offers a state-by-state look at guidance on supporting English-learner students and their families amid the global pandemic.
2 min read