Want to find a better teacher for English-language learners? A new report suggests schools might start by looking for teachers who add the most value for any student, rather than limiting the search to those with specialized training to work with ELLs.
In an online preview posted this month in the journal Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a trio of Stanford University researchers write about using a value-added measure to look at the effectiveness of teachers both with and without bilingual certification in Florida’s Miami-Dade County public schools. They analyzed data on teachers’ effectiveness in reading and in math, with English-learners (both current and those who had been considered not proficient in English within the last three years) and those fluent in English.
Separate analyses of English-learners and non-ELLs in the same school and the same classroom were conducted to correct for potential differences in how schools sort students by teacher.
The researchers found that, generally, a great teacher is great for all students, and an ineffective teacher is ineffective for all, too. In math, for example, nearly 6 in 10 teachers who rated in the top 20 percent of effectiveness for students fluent in English were also in the top quintile for English-learners. English-learners still benefit from having a teacher who specializes in teaching students learning a new language. The study found teachers who were fluent in Spanish, or had a bilingual certification, were more effective with ELLs than those who were not as familiar with students’ native language and teaching ELLs, all else being equal.
A version of this article appeared in the October 15, 2014 edition of Education Week as Study Weighs Special Training Vs. Effectiveness for Teachers