Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Preparedness of Secondary School Teachers concerning the Education of Limited English Proficient Students

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Preparedness of Secondary School Teachers concerning the Education of Limited English Proficient Students

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

As the number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students increases in American secondary schools, so does the need to properly educate them. An increasing challenge for educators is to enable LEP students to gain access to the core curriculum in the mainstream classroom. The following paper discusses research conducted in three, rural, Utah school districts, pertaining to secondary teachers' feelings of preparedness in educating LEP students. Results of the surveys indicated that teachers were not able to recognize the unique needs of LEP students, nor understand how to help them gain access to the mainstream curriculum. The need for specific training on LEP teaching strategies and techniques was an underlying concern for most educators.

INTRODUCTION

In the year 2000, the number of LEP (Limited English Proficient) students nationwide was estimated at 2.4 million (Triennial Comprehensive Report on Immigration, 2000). States with large, urban school districts, such as California, Texas, and New York, have been addressing the challenge of how to educate LEP students for years. However, these large, urban districts are not alone in facing the challenge. Rural school districts throughout the nation are showing huge gains in the number of LEP students enrolled. For example, according to the Idaho Evaluation of Programs (2000), the number of LEP students in Idaho increased from 2,992 in 1990 to 16,338 in 2000. Utah had an increase of almost 2,000 LEP students between the years 2001 and 2002, and that number is still increasing (Utah Office of Education, 2003). With the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA), all states are now accountable for the education and performance of all students, and LEP students are specifically included in this accountability.

The issue of particular interest in this research was whether or not teachers from rural schools feel prepared for educating LEP students; and if teachers do not feel prepared, what can be done to help them become more prepared. The following research questions were addressed: 1) In general, what are the problems that educators face when educating LEP students? 2) How can LEP students gain access to the mainstream, core curriculum? and 3) What more can be done to better prepare educators for teaching LEP students?

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

A growing challenge facing teachers today is that of helping LEP students to gain access to the mainstream, core curriculum including math, science, English, and social studies. Because of the language barrier, teachers can become frustrated, discouraged, and even give up on these students. According to a qualitative study conducted by Markham (2000), the majority of teachers stated that working with LEP students was very stressful. Most indicated that a challenge for them was learning how to cope with language and cultural barriers. Another issue cited was the lack of support and training provided by the school district. Some teachers commented that little is being done to integrate the LEP students into the mainstream curriculum. A rural, elementary school teacher stated:

Children who have experienced a lot of disruption in the recent past are brought to the U.S. and immediately enrolled in my classes. Many times it takes months to recover from the culture shock in order for them to feel ready to learn. They might also be educationally, emotionally, and socially deprived. It takes a very long time for them to be ready to learn. Sometimes I wonder if the gap will ever be narrow enough for them to be completely accepted socially and emotionally. (Markham, 2000, p. 273)

Many teachers are overwhelmed and confused with the LEP students that are in their classrooms. Some feel that it is a language issue, but according to Baker (1999) language is not the real issue. "Teachers shouldn't worry much about how they teach English as long as they use enough English. …

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