Valerie Schremp Hahn is blogging about English language learners in the Missouri public schools. The latest news on this topic is that Education Week has given Missouri a less-than-spectacular grade in its English Language Learners report:
The number of certified Title III ELL teachers to serve these students is dismal – 372 students per teacher in Missouri and 19 students per teacher nationwide. The report says there are no teacher standards for ELL instruction in Missouri while 33 other states do have such standards.
Is there cause for concern here? Yes and no. The lack of official standards and certification doesn’t worry me. After all, many recent college graduates are successfully teaching English all over the world through programs like Fulbright. They do get some training beforehand, but nothing like what’s required for an education degree or ELL certification in the U.S. Teaching English in this country should be less challenging, because students here are simultaneously exposed to new English-speaking peers and hear English during the entire school day. Teachers shouldn’t need special credentials to teach English in this setting.
However, Missouri should strive to do better in this area, because only about 55 percent of Missouri English language learners are showing improvement on the MAP tests. (That’s not bad when compared to other states, but clearly far from ideal.)
I’m looking forward to seeing how well language-immersion charter schools are able to teach English language learners. For example, a native Spanish speaker starting kindergarten at the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools would have an advantage in the early grades, and then would be formally introduced to English in late elementary school. Perhaps the strong foundation in the student’s native language would ease the gradual transition into English.