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TESOL's Position Statements

Official Positions on English Language Teaching Issues

To advance its goal of improving public policy and understanding as outlined in its strategic plan, TESOL takes official positions on a broad range of issues related to the field of English language teaching. These positions are published as statements and papers, and they become official when the TESOL board of directors approves them.

Position Statements by Topic

Position Statement on Adult English as a Second or Additional Language Programs (March 2010; PDF) 
TESOL urges countries where English is the common, dominant, or official language to make commitments to developing national systems of high quality, appropriate language and literacy services specifically tailored to the needs of adults learning ESL/EAL in their populations. These systems should involve all stakeholders in the review, creation, and implementation of education policies and be no less in quality, recognition, and support than the system in place for public primary, secondary, and higher education.

Position Statement on Adolescent English Language Learners in Adult ESL Programs in the United States (March 2006; PDF) 
Adolescent English language learners are a broad and diverse group with many different needs. Compounding the challenges for these students in particular are cultural and social adjustments they often face as they meet the demands of U.S. high schools. TESOL strongly opposes efforts to encourage the early withdrawal of adolescent English language learners from high school in order to boost the academic ratings and test scores at the high school level.

Adult ESL Language and Literacy Instruction: A Vision and Action Agenda for the 21st Century (October 2001; PDF) 
This discussion, which complements From the Margins to the Mainstream: The Action Agenda for Literacy (National Literacy Summit, 2000), focuses on the characteristics and needs of adults learning English as a second language, the programs that serve them, and the policies that affect them. Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) envisions a system for the education of adult English language learners that provides high quality language and literacy services for this linguistically and culturally diverse population.

TESOL Issues Joint Statement with EnglishUSA and  UCIEP on Supporting International Students in Intensive English Programs (January 2017; PDF) 

Position Statement on Academic and Degree-Granting Credit for ESOL Courses in Postsecondary Education (June 2012)

Position Statement on the Acquisition of Academic Proficiency in English at the Postsecondary Level (November 2010; PDF) 
Because of the importance of securing an adequate foundation in academic English before commencing postsecondary coursework and the inherent variability in the rate of language development, it is essential that students, their financial sponsors, and the institutions they attend understand the need to be flexible with respect to the amount of time and financial support allotted for language study. Setting strict time and/or financial limits on the length of English studies, or pressure to exit students from such studies prematurely, are counterproductive and will undermine opportunities for academic success.

TESOL Issues Joint Statement with AAIEP, UCIEP on IEP Governance (January 2010; PDF) 
TESOL issued a joint position statement with the American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP) and the Consortium of University and College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP) regarding governance of IEPs on university and college campuses.

Position Statement on English Entrance Exams for Nonnative English Speakers at Schools and Universities (March 2009; PDF) 
TESOL is concerned about the growing practice that formal, standardized English language tests are being used as the sole criterion to determine entrance to education programs at the tertiary education level. Moreover, the validity and reliability of the language tests used for this purpose are not always transparent. The high-stakes nature of this kind of testing makes it imperative that assessment practices are designed to fairly and accurately assess candidates’ skills for program entrance.

Position Statement on Academic and Degree-Granting Credit for ESOL Courses (October 2008; PDF) 
Courses for English language learners in academic institutions are often mischaracterized as remedial and are not always acknowledged for full credit and/or count toward graduation. TESOL advocates that institutions of secondary and tertiary education develop policies that identify those ESOL courses that will be credit-bearing upon successful completion and/or satisfy academic requirements for graduation purposes and that these institutions grant such courses appropriate credit hours.

Position Statement on the Value of Intensive English Programs in the United States (June 2004; PDF) 
TESOL strongly supports and values the role IEPs play in promoting high quality education, collaboration in a global community, and respect for diversity and multiculturalism.

Position Statement on Accreditation for Intensive English Programs in the United States (March 2004; PDF) 
TESOL supports and recommends accreditation for intensive English programs (IEPs) in the United States.

Position Statement on Degree-Granting Credit for ESL Courses (June 2000; PDF) 
TESOL advocates that degree-granting credit be awarded to ESOL students for successful completion of coursework in English as a second or foreign language in institutions of higher education.

White Paper on Discrimination in Education (November 2023)
TESOL International Association releases its White Paper on Discrimination in Education to address discriminatory practices impacting education, especially English language teaching professionals and the multilingual learners of English they serve. With a deep-rooted commitment to service and the values embodied through diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, TESOL's past, present, and future encourages all educators in addressing legislation, practices, and policies that limit or restrict opportunities and access to a quality education. This white paper highlights both the legacy and the path forward through scholarship, instruction, and advocacy in facing these challenges for affecting positive environments, opportunities, and outcomes throughout the world.

Position Statement on the Rights of Deaf Learners to Acquire Full Proficiency in a Native Signed Language (July 2009; PDF)
TESOL supports multilingualism and the right to advanced literacy in both native and second languages. In the case of Deaf students, TESOL recognizes and supports Deaf learners’ right to become proficient in a signed language or written or spoken language(s), including English. For learners who are hearing impaired, the learning of signed language and the promotion of the Deaf community’s linguistic identity are fundamental to engagement in the second language acquisition process and their need to participate fully in the Deaf community.

Position Statement Opposing Bullying, Harassment, and Hate Crimes (March 2009; PDF) 
English language educators working with racial and linguistic minorities; women; and gay, lesbian, and transgendered people must make clear that diversity among human beings is not only to be tolerated but celebrated. As the global association for English language educators, TESOL values individual language rights, collaboration in a global community, and respect for diversity and multiculturalism. TESOL strongly opposes bullying, harassment, and hate crimes.

Position Statement on Fairness and Equity in ESL Program Reduction (March 2009; PDF) 
When economic conditions necessitate cutbacks in funding, TESOL urges public policy makers and managers of educational institutions to exercise fairness and equity in administering program cuts so as not to disadvantage culturally and linguistically diverse student populations or those who may already be suffering the debilitating effects of poverty.

Position Statement on English as a Global Language (April 2008; PDF) 
With English being taught globally for very diverse purposes, a singular or monolithic approach to the modeling of English is no longer tenable. TESOL encourages the recognition and appreciation of all varieties of English, including dialects, creoles, and world Englishes.

Position Statement on the Identification of English Language Learners with Special Educational Needs (March 2007; 90 KB PDF) 
The disproportionate representation of culturally and linguistically diverse students in special education has become an issue that has received increased attention, especially in countries with a growing population of English language learners such as the United States. In identifying English language learners with special education needs, several key issues need to be addressed.

Position Statement on the Diversity of English Language Learners in the United States (October 2006; PDF
Beginning in the 1990s, surges in immigration and other demographic trends in the United States have had dramatic impacts upon both the number and diversity of the students and adults referred to as English language learners. These complex and interrelated differences have a tremendous impact on the ways these individuals learn English and, even more importantly, on the time required for them to reach academic-level proficiency in English.

Position Statement Against Discrimination of Nonnative Speakers of English in the Field of TESOL (March 2006; PDF) 
All educators should be evaluated within the same criteria. Nonnative English-speaking educators should not be singled out because of their native language. TESOL strongly opposes discrimination against nonnative English speakers in the field of English language teaching.

Position Statement on Multilingualism (October 2004; PDF) 
Although TESOL's mission is to advance excellence in English language teaching, TESOL values and encourages multilingualism in all learners at every age and level. TESOL supports and encourages programs that foster skills in both first and additional languages.

Position Statement on International Education (March 2003; PDF) 
TESOL values international education and exchange as a critical component of quality education at every level. TESOL therefore urges governments and institutions to promote and support international education and exchange.

Position Statement Opposing Discrimination (October 2001; PDF) 
TESOL's official position statement opposing discrimination.

Position Statement on Language Rights (October 2000; PDF)

Position Paper on Family Involvement in the Education of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Students (June 2000) 
This position paper discusses TESOL's recommendations to improve family involvement in ESOL student education in the United States.

Position Statement on Native Language Support in the Acquisition of English as a Second Language (ESL) (December 1999)

Position Statement on the Acquisition of Academic Proficiency in English (August 1999: PDF)

Position Statement of the TESOL Board on African American Vernacular English (March 1997) 
TESOL affirms that the variety of English known as African American Vernacular English, Black English, Ebonics, and sometimes by other names has been shown through research to be a rule-governed linguistic system, with its own lexical, phonological, syntactic, and discourse patterns and, thus, deserves pedagogical recognition.
This statement was approved by the TESOL Executive Committee in March 1997.

Position Statement of the TESOL Board on Language Varieties (October 1996) 
TESOL encourages the recognition and appreciation of all varieties of English, including dialects, creoles, and World Englishes; recognizes the desirability of bi- and multidialectism, as well as bi- and multilingualism; promotes discussion and information dissemination regarding language varieties; advocates for dialect-fair assessment instruments and placement for students; and views positively the development of curricula that encourage awareness of language variation.
This statement was approved by the TESOL Board of Directors in October 1996.

Position Statement on Independent Short-Term TESL/TEFL Certificate Programs (July 2009; PDF) 
A short-term TESL/TEFL certificate program typically is a full-time intensive program or a series of part-time online courses running 4–6 weeks or longer. Although accredited post-secondary institutions may offer credit-bearing TESL/TEFL certificate programs, independent TESL/TEFL certificate programs are typically neither accredited nor affiliated with an accredited post-secondary institution.

Position Statement on the Status of, and Professional Equity for, the Field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (June 2008; PDF)
It is TESOL’s position that all educational authorities, government agencies, and academic institutions recognize the field of TESOL as a unique academic and professional discipline that is distinct from, but on par with, other academic subjects. Accordingly, TESOL recommends special and unique designation of the field.

Position Statement on Professionalization and Credentialing for Adult ESOL Educators (April 2008; PDF) 
Educational authorities should view professionalization as a means to improve the quality of education and enhance program capacity, and thus make the professionalization of adult ESOL educators a priority.

Position Statement on Teacher Preparation for Content-Based Instruction (March 2008; PDF)
The emergence of CBI as a paradigm in language education, and its implementation across educational contexts, has radically changed the role of language teachers and the language curriculum in primary and secondary school settings and in post-secondary contexts.

Position Statement on Terminal Degree for Teaching English as a Second, Foreign, or Additional Language (October 2007; PDF)
A terminal degree is the generally accepted highest academic degree in a discipline or field of study. In addition to terminal degrees, many fields of study, especially those linked to a specific profession, make a distinction between a first professional degree and an advanced professional degree.

Position Statement on the Role of Teachers’ Associations in Education Policy and Planning (October 2007; PDF) 
TESOL strongly advocates that authorities at all levels recognize the right of teachers’ association to exist, and that teachers’ associations be accorded legal status. Furthermore, TESOL urges that authorities encourage the active participation of teachers and their associations in the process of transforming education, and in educational planning and policy making.

Position Statement on Teacher Credentialing for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages in Primary and Secondary Schools (June 2007; 86 KB, PDF)
To ensure that English language learners are being taught by appropriately qualified educators, educational authorities should establish and require unique credentialing procedures and programs for qualified and trained ESL/EAL/EFL and bilingual educators and specialists working in public schools.

Position Statement on the Status and Rights of Teachers (March 2007; 100 KB PDF) 
According to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to an education. Teachers play an essential role in educational advancement, and teaching should be regarded and respected as a profession.

Position Paper on Equitable Treatment for Part-time, Adjunct, and Contingent Faculty (March 2003, amended June 2006; PDF
TESOL has long opposed excessive use and exploitation of part-time, adjunct, and contingent and adjunct faculty, because it undermines academic quality and freedom and respect for teaching.

Position Statement on Highly Qualified Teachers Under No Child Left Behind (February 2005; PDF) 
TESOL recommends that teachers of English language learners who are fully credentialed by their state in bilingual education, ESL, or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) be recognized as and considered highly qualified under No Child Left Behind.

Position Statement on the Preparation of Pre-K-12 Educators for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the United States (October 2003) 
TESOL holds that all pre-K–12 educators need to receive specialized training and preparation in the skills necessary to effectively manage culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms.

Position Statement on Professional Equity for the Field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (October 2003; PDF
TESOL is in favor of commensurate salaries, benefits, working conditions, and workloads across disciplines in order to foster academic and intellectual equity and integrity in academic institutions and in society at large. This position statement was approved by TESOL's board of directors in 2003.

Position Statement on Teacher Quality in the Field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (June 2003; 93 KB, PDF
TESOL's official Position Statement on Teacher Quality for ESL/EFL professionals.

Position Statement on Local Flexibility in the Education of English Language Learners (June 2003; PDF)

Position Paper on High-Stakes Testing for K-12 English-Language Learners in the United States of America (March 2003; PDF) 
This paper discusses TESOL's position on high-stakes testing for pre-K-12 students.

Assessment and Accountability of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Students (June 2000) 
In the era of standards-based reform, assessments are commonly used to measure student achievement. This is an outline of assessment issues that come to bear on English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) students, their teachers, and the services received.

Position Statement on Immigration Policy and Reform in the United States (August 2017; PDF)
As a nation of immigrants, the United States has grown and prospered through the measurable and immeasurable economic, linguistic, and cultural contributions of all immigrants, and continues to do so today. TESOL strongly urges open, respectful, and reasoned debate, free of heated and insensitive rhetoric that will only inflame anti-immigrant sentiment.

Increasing Academic Achievement and Enhancing Capacity for English Language Learners: Principles and Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (March 2011; PDF) 

The TESOL Board of Directors approved a revised set of principles and recommendations for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the U.S.

TESOL and AZ-TESOL Joint Statement on the Arizona Teacher English Fluency Initiative (May 2010; PDF) 
TESOL and its Arizona affiliate AZ-TESOL have great concerns about this teacher English fluency evaluation initiative and its impact upon English language learners. Nonnative English-speaking educators should not be singled out because of their native language, nor evaluated based on arbitrary standards of language fluency.

Statement of Principles and Preliminary Recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (October 2006, Amended October 2007; 88 KB PDF) 
As the Congress and the administration look toward the reauthorization of ESEA in 2007, TESOL advocates that the following principles be used to guide the reauthorization process to help ensure the academic success of English language learners. This is an amended version of the position statement approved in June 2006

Position Statement on Immigration Reform in the United States (June 2006; 69 KB, PDF) 
In the debate over immigration reform in the United States, proposals to the immigration system have ranged from purely punitive measures to indiscriminate amnesty. Because of the complex issues that surround immigration, any reform of the U.S. immigration system needs to be fair, equitable, and comprehensive.

Position Paper on Assessment and Accountability under NCLB (October 2005; PDF) 
Since its passage, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has fundamentally altered the educational landscape in the United States. Its purpose is laudable: "to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind" (1425). However, its implementation has presented significant challenges to schools as they serve the growing number of English language learners--a group NCLB was specifically intended to help.

Position Statement on U.S. Visa Policy (October 2005; PDF) 
Much has been written about the increased difficulties international students and educators have faced when attempting to come to the United States to study. TESOL calls upon the U.S. government to provide a coherent visa policy, to create a timely and transparent visa process, and to refine controls and procedures to efficiently focus resources on those that require special screening.

Position Paper on English-Only Legislation in the United States (June 2005; PDF) 
English-only, Official English, and English First are various names used by a movement whose goal is to have English declared the official language of the United States, so that all government business is conducted only in English. TESOL has historically opposed such restrictive language policies, as stated by its Resolution on Language Rights (1987) and its Position Statement on Language Rights (2000).

Position Statement on U.S. Visa Issues for International Students and Educators (June 2005; PDF) 
TESOL urges U.S. policy makers and those who implement the policies to enact measures that ensure that all international students and educators are treated with respect and dignity, and to facilitate their opportunities to study in the United States.

Position Statement on Research and Policy (February 2005; PDF) 
A strong commitment to research as a means of improving professional knowledge is vital to the field of teaching of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). This paper discusses the association's position on research and policy.

Position Statement on the Redesign of the U.S. Citizenship Exam (October 2004; PDF) 
TESOL urges test developers to continue to seek guidance from adult educators at each step to ensure that the test is fair and appropriate for the many examinees who have limited experience with formal education and standardized test formats.

Position Statement on the Use of B-Visas for Short-Term Language Study (June 2004; PDF) 
TESOL supports the use of B-visas, the visa category used by the Department of State for tourists and business visitors, for short-term language study in the United States.

Position Paper on Language and Literacy Development for Young English Language Learners (March 2010; PDF) 
In this position statement, TESOL makes six key recommendations regarding language and literacy development for young learners. The statement was first approved by the Board of Directors in October 2001, and revised in March 2010.

Position Statement on Teaching English as a Foreign or Additional Language to Young Learners (October 2009; PDF) 
Although research has suggested that age may have an effect as to the way a language is learned, age alone does not determine success in learning a foreign language. As various sociocultural contexts, government policies, and historical language practices will all impact the success or failure of a language instructional program, there is no single best way to implement an English as a foreign or additional language (EFL/EAL) program for young learners.

Position Statement on Terminology: An Asset-Based Approach (2024; PDF)
TESOL International Association (TESOL) advocates for the adoption of asset-based language within the English language teaching (ELT) profession and emphasizes the importance of proper representation in all contexts.


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