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TESOL Supports Findings in Education Week's Special Report on English Language Learners

by David Cutler | 05/12/2016
Statement by Executive Director Rosa Aronson, PhD, CAE

In a recently released special report by Education Week, the state of the nation’s English learner (EL) population was put into focus, detailing the struggles and challenges that EL students and their teachers face on a daily basis. TESOL International Association recognizes the importance of these findings as they relate to improving the outcomes for some of our nation’s most underserved and often overlooked students. 

This comprehensive report, covering issues from instruction type and early childhood education to parental engagement and graduation rates, highlights some of the biggest obstacles that EL students and teachers must overcome in order to succeed in the classroom. Key among the findings is that of the 5 million ELs in public schools, only 63.1% graduate high school, compared to 82% of their non-EL counterparts. ​A combination of different factors, including high poverty rates and student feelings of dejection, increases the number of EL dropouts. Further hindering EL graduation rates are the results of an Education Week Resource Center survey that found “only one-third of district-level leaders believe educators in their schools have the preparation to effectively teach English-learners.” 

TESOL and its members have been concerned about the preparation of ESL teachers in the era of new standards since a convening in 2013 brought together ESL professionals to discuss the future of teacher preparation. In February 2016, TESOL released a report that offers recommendations for the improvement and strengthening of ESL teacher preparation programs. “The Preparation of the ESL Educator in the Era of College- and Career-Readiness Standards” encourages teacher preparation programs to provide preservice teachers with substantive in-classroom experiences to adequately prepare them for the realities of teaching in an ESL classroom. 

Additionally, because other teachers and administrators increasingly rely on ESL teachers as experts in their field, the TESOL report recommends that preservice ESL teachers be given extensive leadership training. With the number of challenges facing teachers, as outlined by the Education Week report, including ​a lack of appropriate EL teaching materials and communication gaps with parents, it becomes more apparent that ESL teachers need stronger and more intensive preparation programs to be effective educators. It is TESOL’s hope that the proposals set forth, as well as the issues raised in the Education Week special report, are considered by teacher preparation programs as they create and implement courses and opportunities for future ESL teachers.