Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Developing Responsive Teachers: A Challenge for a Demographic Reality

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Developing Responsive Teachers: A Challenge for a Demographic Reality

Article excerpt

The education of English learners (ELs) has attracted national attention recently with the Supreme Court ruling in Home v. Flores (2009). This case, the first funding case on behalf of ELs to reach the Supreme Court, challenged Arizona's formula for adequately funding programs for ELs. Adequate resources have been identified as key for effective program implementation (Gandara, Rumberger, Maxwell-Jolly, & Callahan, 2003; Reeves, 2004; Williams v. State of California, 2005), and many would argue that the focal resource is the teacher (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Faltis & Coulter, 2007). Research indicates that there is a critical shortage of teachers prepared to respond to the needs of ELs (Wong-Fillmore & Snow, 2002). In this article, we reflect on the preparation of teachers for ELs and articulate the importance of enhancing teacher knowledge through contact and collaboration with diverse ethnolinguistic communities. We build on recent research on the preparation of teachers for cultural responsiveness and linguistic diversity and recommend a situated preparation within EL communities that fosters the development of teacher knowledge of the dynamics of language in children's lives and communities. We begin our review by summarizing recent demographic developments for ELs. This section is followed by a brief review of the context of education for ELs. We summarize the most recent research on culturally and linguistically responsive teacher preparation and focus on a framework that includes developing teacher knowledge through contact, collaboration, and community.

How we define ELs and the labels we ascribe to their diversity can be confusing. Who teaches these students can be just as confusing and diverse. And there are often inconsistencies across schools, districts, and states. Therefore, a brief clarification of terms is in order before proceeding. Several terms are used in the literature to describe U.S. schoolchildren whose native language is other than English. A common term is language minority, which is used to describe children whose native language is other than English, the mainstream societal language in the United States. This term is applied to normative English speakers regardless of their current level of English proficiency. Other common terms are English language learner (ELL) (or, shorter, English learner [EL]) and limited English proficient (LEP). These two terms are used interchangeably to refer to students whose native language is other than English and whose English proficiency is not yet developed to a point where they can profit fully from English instruction or communication. They have not developed academic English proficiency. In this introduction, the term English learner and its respective abbreviation is used rather than limited English proficient as a way of emphasizing students' learning and progress, rather than what they lack--their limitations.

Teachers who are assigned as instructors of these students can have no formal preparation, minimal formal preparation related to workshop training, or substantial coursework and experience that can produce a state-issued credential. They may be labeled English-as-a-second-language teacher (ESL), bilingual teacher (BLE), English language development teacher (ELD), or sheltered English immersion teacher (SEI). These are only representative terms. Yet they all are expected to take the special responsibility of implementing instruction for EL students. Overall, too many EL students are provided instructors who themselves admit they are not prepared for effective instruction of these students (Gandara, Maxwell-Jolly, & Driscoll, 2005). Nonetheless, recognizing, emphasizing, and strategically integrating children's knowledge, skills, and abilities is central to the teaching and teachers needed in schools and classrooms to improve educational opportunities for ELs (Genessee, Lindholm-Leary, Sanders, & Christian, 2006). …

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