Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Teacher Preparation, Professional Development, and Long-Term English Learners

Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Teacher Preparation, Professional Development, and Long-Term English Learners

Article excerpt


This article presents a synthesis of research linking Long-Term English Learners (LTELs) and the underprepared schools and teachers they have encountered. The purpose of this article, though small in scope, is to explore the policies, practices, and conditions surrounding teacher preparation and professional development in relation to the growing number of LTELs. While the standards designed to guide curriculum have paid little attention to second-language development and differ only slightly from those designed for native English speakers, the number of LTELs in the United States has continued to rise therefore causing the factors which impact the failure of English Learners (ELs) to achieve reclassification as English Proficient students to become an issue of focus in education. Multi-cultural theorists have argued that diversity issues are central to the rest of the curriculum and must be infused throughout courses, field experience requirements, and professional development in order to strengthen preservice and inservice teachers' multi-cultural relational capacity and knowledge of instructional strategies for ELs and LTELs. While other nations have taken the initiative to produce highly effective, experienced, and dedicated teachers there remains a desperate need for a general consensus to build a policy infrastructure that supports reform with the intention of preventing future harm to the diverse student population in the U.S.

Keywords: Long-Term English Learners; English Learners; field experiences; professional development; multi-cultural; policy

1. Introduction

One of the greatest challenges currently facing education in the U.S. is providing educators and preservice teachers with the knowledge, skills, support, and experiences necessary to meet the demands of educating the burgeoning population of English Learners (ELs) (Valentine, 2006; Vogt, 2009). According to national data by NCES (2003), the percentage of all public school students from ethnic minority groups has increased drastically, from 22% in 1972 to 39% in 2000, and remains on the rise (Durgunoglu & Hughes, 2010). Despite the fact that schools in the U.S. are steadily becoming more ethnically diverse, many educators, preservice teachers, and educational institutions remain underprepared to provide high-quality multi-cultural instruction to their ELs and Long-Term English Learners (LTELs) (Coady, de Jong, & Harper, 2011; Nieto, 2005). According to the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner 2005), teacher preparation must be improved, although vast differences in opinions about how, why, and for what purposes persist. While many preservice teachers have been introduced and exposed to EL instructional strategies, along with the theories and research to support them in their university coursework, lack of academic achievement among our ELs and LTELs is a strong indicator that it is time to re-assess and rethink educational policies of the past (Menken, Kleyn, & Chae, 2009).

Currently, an issue that has gained attention in education is the growing population of LTELs (Menken et al., 2009). While a universally agreed upon definition of an LTEL has not been reached, California has taken the lead with the 2012 adoption of Assembly Bill 2193 section 313.1. The bill defines an LTEL as an English Learner who has been enrolled in the U.S. school system for more than six years without demonstrating an increase in proficiency level above far-below basic or below basic (Assembly Bill No. 2193). Although U.S. history is steeped in immigration and our schools have long housed students from varying ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, our LTELs remain a population we have ignored, harmed, and failed in the past (Olsen, 2010). Research has shown student achievement to be directly related to the type of preparation their teacher has received (Al-Bataineh, 2009; Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005), yet preservice teachers have often graduated with little or no knowledge or experiences to support ELs academics, linguistics, and cultures (Webster & Valeo, 2011). …

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