The Efficacy of Florida's Approach to In-Service English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher Training Programs

By Simmons, Ronald D., Jr. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

The Efficacy of Florida's Approach to In-Service English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher Training Programs


Simmons, Ronald D., Jr., Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


The issue of school achievement among k-12 English language learners (ELLs) has grown in recent years to become one that policy makers and school officials can hardly afford to ignore. A range of indicators including graduation rates, and Florida's High stakes test the FCAT, attests to this general trend. As of the school year 2006/07, the total number of English language learners in Florida's public schools was 234,934. This is approximately 9% of the state's total school population. The majority of these children could be found in just five counties, accounting for close to 70% of the entire English language learner population in the state (Florida Department of Education, 2005-06). Worrying to many is the fact that this very sizeable group has one of the highest grade retention rates (children who are held back a grade) in the nation for secondary level students (Kindler, 2002).

As mentioned, English language learners do not appear to be faring well on Florida's high stakes accountability measures. In 2006, only a quarter of the English language learner population in grades 3 and 10 received a passing score on the reading section of the 2006 Florida Comprehensive assessment Test (FCAT) (Florida Department of Education, 2006). Perhaps most troubling, in some districts reading scores for English language learners actually fell from prior years (Florida Department of Education, 2006). In 2006 the statewide reading passing rate for the general student population was 75% for third graders and only 32% for 10th graders. Furthermore, almost all groups with the exception of students with disabilities have made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) at least once since 2002-2003. English language learners in Florida have never made AYP since that time (Florida Department of Education, 2006). (AYP is a state-wide accountability measure mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001).

Given these trends, one would assume that Florida would be taking an aggressive approach to addressing this achievement gap via its compensatory programs aimed at providing English language learners a comprehensible education. These programs are comprised mainly of providing English instruction to ELLs part of the day in ESOL classes. They also train regular content teachers in ESOL methods to work with the large numbers of English language learners that are mainstreamed in their classes throughout the school year. These types of programs are not unique to the state and can be found in various forms from California to Massachusetts. The proliferation of these models over the past twenty years has not occurred without criticism from some notable scholars (Cummins, 2001; Gandara, P., Maxwell-Jolly, J., & Driscoll, A., 2005). Cummins (2001) claims, for example, that despite the myriad of compensatory programs and the hiring of additional bilingual aides and remedial personnel, Hispanic drop-out rates among Mexican American and mainland Puerto Rican students remains between 40 and 50 percent. Hispanic students in places such as Texas continue to be overrepresented in special education classes.

Here in Florida it would appear that shortcomings exist regarding these compensatory programs as well. English language learners in Florida are overwhelmingly mainstreamed in content classes, (MacDonald, 2004), and it has become the responsibility of teachers to provide a comprehensible and meaningful education to those not proficient in English. If the district in-service training many teachers receive is not sufficiently preparing instructors to manage the thousands of mainstreamed ELLs placed in their classrooms year after year, then the entire system must be called into question. This study indicates that that the ESOL in-service teacher training programs which can be found in counties across the state are in dire need of reform and require a complete re-evaluation of present practices and approaches.

Purpose of Study

This study attempts to determine whether district training sessions in Florida are adequately covering state-mandated content areas for the ESOL endorsement. …

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