Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Supporting English Language Learners by Supporting Teachers

Some weeks the education news leaves me confused. This week, there has been a Houston Chronicle story on the ways that “Limited-English Students Lag on Test Scores.” The article reports, “Texas students who struggle with the English language fell about 60 percentage points behind white students in passing reading and math tests by the time they reached the eighth grade, a study released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center says.” The article details the concrete costs of educating these English language learners and suggests the less measurable costs for a society where students are not able to achieve in the classroom because they do not find adequate support for their language development.

The issue noted in Texas is found nationally. The Washington Post article “Rating Education Gains—Achievement Gaps, Advanced Placement Exams, Demographic Shifts, and Charter Schools: What Do They Add Up To for Students?” summarizes the findings of “The Condition of Education 2007,” a report released this month from the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics. The article concludes by pointing out that the “achievement gaps between disadvantaged and advantaged groups have narrowed somewhat but remain large.” For many of these disadvantaged students, language learning is the key to achievement. The number of English language learners in the United States has been growing steadily. “The Condition of Education 2007” reports that “The number of children ages 5–17 who spoke a language other than English at home more than doubled between 1979 and 2005.”

So we know that we have growing numbers of English language learners in the classroom, and we know that these students are frequently disadvantaged in their language development and academic achievement. How, then, can I respond with anything other than confusion when I read the Miami Herald story “Measure would cut ESOL training”? The story explains that legislation has been sent to Florida’s governor Charlie Crist that would reduce the amount of training required for Florida Department of Education ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement from 300 hours to just 60 hours—only 20% of the time currently required.

Is it any wonder that ELL students lag on test scores when legislation undermines support for the training teachers need to help those students succeed? NCTE's Executive Committee approved a list of “Principles of Professional Development” in November of last year. The first item on the list? “Professional development of teachers/faculty is a central factor leading to student success.” Educators know the importance of professional development. If legislators would begin to understand how teacher training results in student success, we might finally be able to close the achievement gap for all learners.


PapaNGoogie said...

The bill reducing teacher training for ELLs in Florida arrived on Governor Crist's desk on Friday, June 15, 2007. If he signs it, it becomes law; if he does nothing, it becomes law. Ask him to do the right thing for children, ask him to VETO by calling 850-488-5000.

Today, in a common cause in the defense of children the League of United Latin Amercian Ciitizens (LULAC), Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD), ASPIRA, The National Council for La Raza, Cuban American National Council (CNC),
Centro Campesino, American Hispanic Educators (AHEAD), Florida NAACP, St La Haitian Neighborhood Center, The Hispanic Coalition, Florida Association of Bilingual and ESOL Supervisors (FABES), Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD), National Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Inc, Florida Sunshine State TESOL, Bilingual Association of Florida (BAF), National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE), Joint National Council on Languages (JNCL), Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations (COFFO), Miami-Dade County
Superintendent Rudy Crew, MDCPSMiami-Dade School Board Member Ana Rivas Logan (R) among others ask Florida Governor Crist to VETO SB2512.

Anonymous said...

Governor Crist has done much to make Florida look good again in his responsiveness to all Floridians. He should veto this bill. Common sense dictates that reading is the key for all students, ELLs included. Bad legislation will once again reminds the rest of country that we are the state of the chads and the 2000 presidential election.

Unknown said...

The deadline for calling Governor Crist to request a veto of this bill is tomorrow, Monday, June 18th. The number is 850 488 5000. There is an answer machine at this number for calls made after office hours. The veto is the only way to stop this bad bill. Please call.

Unknown said...

Update: We have the rest of the week to make calls to 850 488 5000 asking for a veto of SB 2512.

PapaNGoogie said...

Governor Crist vetoed SB2512. We thank him for that. The Florida legistlve Hispanic Caucus wrote him a combined letter of concern that Crist cited in his reason for veto. We thank the Hispanic Caucus for that. However, we remain vigilant on behalf of ELLs in this State.

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