Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Ways to Help ELLs: ESL Teachers as Consultants

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Ways to Help ELLs: ESL Teachers as Consultants

Article excerpt


This article proposes the idea of utilizing English as a second language teachers as educational consultants to assist general education teachers who usually do not have formal training in teaching English language learners (ELLs). The article highlights the benefits of applying a consultation model for general education teachers and their ELLs. The increased general education teachers' competency in accommodating ELLs will result in enhancing academic performance for ELLs, which is a desirable outcome for all concerned.

The 2000 US Census (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002) reports that one in five U.S. residents is foreign-born, and this number has tripled since 1970. The number of English language learners (ELLs) is on the increase across the nation. The ELL population grew by 105% during 1990-2001 school year, and in California alone, 32.9% of the school population is ELLs (Kindler, 2002). The changing demographics of American public schools unquestionably will affect the way public school teachers teach their students and these realities beg the questions: "Do general education teachers know how address the unique learning needs of ELLs? Are they prepared to teach them effectively?"

These are critical questions because ELLs spend most of their school time in general education classrooms, not in English as a second language (ESL) classes (Brown, 2003). Moreover, the great majority of general education teachers are not formally trained to teach ELLs. At the same time, a substantial academic achievement gap exists between native speakers of English and ELLs. These conditions suggest a need for close collaboration between general education and ESL teachers to ensure that ELLs are not left behind in the general education classroom. For ELLs, the major barrier that keeps them from academic success is their English proficiency. Their lagging academic performance has been linked to the explanation that they do not get access to curriculum because they do not understand their teachers' instruction in general education classes (Brown & Bentley, 2004). "ELLs are low achievers" is a simplistic observation. Their low achievement cannot be regarded as low ability because children cannot achieve if they do not understand general education teachers' explanations. If ELLs can comprehend more of their general education teachers' instruction, they can become more successful learners. The real issue, here, is the way ELLs are taught or not taught. If general education teachers knew how to accommodate ELLs, these students could learn and demonstrate adequate progress.

General education teachers are not entirely at fault because they do not know how to be effective with ELLs. Part of the problem can be traced to structural problems in higher education. First, courses such as ESL methods or second language acquisition are usually not part of teacher preparation program requirements for general education students. Upon graduation, these teachers step into the classroom without knowing how to adequately instruct ELLs. Asa result, ELLs who are culturally and linguistically diverse are not exposed to the curriculum in the same ways as their fully English-speaking counterparts. In the end, a lack of proper training of pre-service teachers can markedly affect ELLs' learning and their academic achievement.

Second to university structural problems is that licensure programs in state educational agencies ate slow to catch up with the changing demographics of the student population. State educational agencies generally do not require pre-service teachers to take ESL-related courses for obtaining teaching licensure, except for a few states (i.e., California and Florida). If state educational agencies require such courses as part of credentialing, then higher education institutions will make such courses requisite for all pre-service teachers.

Teacher education has to reframe its focus and make changes within its system. …

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