Preparing Pre-Service Secondary Teachers in Arizona

By Ramirez, Pablo C.; Gonzales-Galindo, Darlene et al. | Multicultural Education, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Preparing Pre-Service Secondary Teachers in Arizona


Ramirez, Pablo C., Gonzales-Galindo, Darlene, Roy, Brittani, Multicultural Education


Introduction

Over the last 10 years secondary English learners (ELs) have been underperforming academically (Echeverría, 2011). In secondary schools in the United States, there has been a large increase of ELs from diverse backgrounds, many who face harsh barriers they must overcome when entering U.S. schools.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, secondary ELs have the highest dropout rate in comparison to other student populations and are more likely to leave school in their first year for several extraordinary reasons (Kholer, 2012). ELs demonstrate a 15-20% higher high school dropout rate compared to that of mainstream students (Fernandez & Inserra, 2013).

One component contributing to this dropout pattern is that many ELs are taught by underprepared teachers who do not understand diversity or English language learning (ELL) instructional strategies (Haycock, 2001). Up until eight years ago, not much attention had been paid to older ELs in the education system, thus prompting a need for discourse surrounding this topic.

A series of research reports on secondary ELs has documented the underperformance of ELs in reference to their academic trajectory. Studies by Faltis and Coulter (2009) contend that schools lack a rigorous curriculum and effective teacher preparation and consequently these factors have shaped the way in which ELs in secondary schools are instructed. Sleeter (2011) argues that the lack of quality teacher preparation for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) youth and ELs continue to impact future students. The common theme of quality is one descriptor of the myriad changes that need to be advocated for in U.S. schools that serve minority populations, especially those with linguistic diversity.

Teacher preparation programs have a significant role in preparing new teachers to teach secondary EL youth in our schools. In the last 20 years little attention has been placed on how pre-service teachers should teach secondary ELs. Instead much research tends to focus on primary level instruction. Moreover, in many states, preservice teachers are not required to take courses associated with language and cultural diversity. Research reports associated with teacher preparation and ELs show that only a few states make it mandatory for pre-service teachers to take course on language learning (Samson, 2012).

This is especially problematic in areas with high concentrations of minority and linguistically diverse students and a high pencentage of Caucasian teachers in the college of education programs. Teachers who are not exposed to this type of preparation lack the experience and the empathy to work effectively with these diverse populations.

Lucas and Villegas (2011) contend that pre/in-service teachers continue to leave teacher education programs without the necessary skills to teach ELs. This is an alarming phenomenon due to the rise of immigrant communities from various countries influencing the changing demographics of the U.S. school population.

Short and Echeverria (2011) articulate a need to reframe the way in which teachers prepare for secondary ELs. They contend that even when teachers are provided course work, they still have to demystify issues impacting teaching instruction such as the age of ELs, the schooling/home background, language levels, and proper language assessments for ELs.

Many pre-service teachers continue to hold a mainstream view of secondary ELs, which is grounded in assimilation and deficit based practices (Salinas, 2011). This in turn has a negative impact on students' self-efficacy and their ability to be successful when faced with such adversity on a daily basis due to such negative attitudes on the part of their teachers.

In Arizona, secondary ELs as well as their teachers are struggling in the educational system (Cammarota, 2012). In the past 10 years issues concerning race, school segregation, and the banning of books and ethnic studies have been shaping the academic trajectory of secondary EL/ immigrant students. …

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