English Language Learners (ELLs) are Calling for you
To say that the U.S. has been undergoing a demographic change perhaps would not take anyone aback. However, how many people are truly cognizant of such change and how it will impact American education? Let me present you with some figures:
- English Language Learners (ELLs) are the fastest growing demographic in U.S. schools today.
- Presently 45% of children under age 5 are minority.
- Texas has the 3rd largest number of (ELLs), only next to California and Florida
- Hispanics and Asians will account for over half of the US population growth every year for the next 50 years.
- By 2020, five of ten public school students will be children of color.
- By 2025, minorities are expected to account for 50% or more of the population of Texas.
What have these figures brought to your mind? As an educator, what I am concerned about is whether the ELLs can receive the high-quality instruction they need. As a teacher educator, I am pondering whether we are preparing sufficient ESL classroom teachers who are qualified enough to meet the needs of ELLs.
These ELLs are in the process of developing their English language proficiency and in the meantime learning academic content across subject areas. Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), all ELLs must take English proficiency test every year until they are “re-designated” as fluent English proficiency speakers.
Additionally, they are held to the same language arts, math, science, and other content-area standards, and required to take and pass the same standards-based tests as their native-English-speaking peers.
Therefore, compared to the native-English-speaking students, ELLs are confronted with dual learning tasks: learning English as a 2nd language and grade-level content in the language they have not been fully proficient in. Both of the tasks can be daunting and require special knowledge and skills of teachers.
Undoubtedly, we have many excellent teachers, passionate, devoted, and conscientious. Well-intentioned as they are, with no training in ESL, they very likely feel challenged, frustrated, and even defeated when facing with ELLs who are regularly placed in their classrooms.
Here, in the School of Education, Health Professions, and Human Development at the University of Houston-Victoria, we are very glad to see that more and more students are taking the initiative to enroll in ESL courses, hoping to have an ESL endorsement added to their teaching certificates. They are equipped with various knowledge and skills essential to teach ELL students, such as how second language acquisition happens, how to make content-area instruction more comprehensible, how to attend to ELLs’ sociocultural, psychological and emotional needs, etc.
All students, regardless of their home language, race, ethnicity, and cultural origin, are entitled to equal educational opportunities. An increasingly large number of ELLs are calling for teachers with ESL endorsement to teach them and address their needs. Have you heard the call? Are you willing to step up and plunge into the ESL teaching profession?
Dr. Liping Wei is an Associate Professor in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in ESL Teacher Preparation in the School of Education, Health Professions, and Human Development at the University of Houston-Victoria. She is in charge of M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in ESL/TESOL.