The Case For Making english as a Second Language a Requirement for U S EducatorsAccording to Education Week (2011), a dramatic growth has taken place in the united states
regarding the number of english-language learners (ELLs) throughout the first decade of the 21st century. From 1997 through 2009, ELLs increased from 3.5 million to 5.3 million. The increase poses unique challenges to educators, many who are not qualified to teach ELLs. Research suggests the population lacks adequate proficiency in academic knowledge and language skills necessary to progress through the core curriculum in public schools. One possible solution to address the issue is requiring U.S. educators to obtain english as a Second Language (ESL) certification
Supporting the argument is the fact that ESL teachers are in great demand, particularly in states with large immigrant and refugee populations. Census records indicate that such states include california, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The immigrant and refugee population is also growing in the more rural areas in the united states (TESOL, 2007).
Not surprisingly, data in student achievement suggests that ELLs lag far behind in comparison to their peers (Education Week, 2011). Research from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that students of limited english who reached proficiency in reading was lower for forth and eighth graders. In fact, only 3% of ELLs met the standard in eighth grade reading, compared with 34% of non-ELLs. The need is clear that public schools must take steps to provide special and specific english language instruction to address this deficiency (Slavin, Madden and Calderon, 2010).
The current law governing first through 12th grade public school education in the united states is No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which was enacted in 2002 under the Bush Administration (Zehr, 2009). The law requires all public school educators working with ELLs be academically prepared to teach both language development and content, not certified
. Critics say the law tends to view ELLs as a monolithic group, and has made little impact because of its focus on testing and accountability. Regarding the latter, NCLB requires that accountability be based on 100% academic proficiency of all students by 2014. Current data suggests ELLs are not academically proficient.
At the present time, most U.S. states require ESL teachers have a certification
or license with a related endorsement (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). However, many states do not fully enforce the requirement. According to UPI (2007), the lack of enforcement is a result of the teacher shortage due to the retirement of baby boomers in the school system and the raised standards for new teachers in the NCLB law. Such issues only exacerbate the learning problems facing ELLs, who, incidentally, have also changed the achievement data of schools in recent years.
For example, nearly 30% of Boston ELLs do not speak or comprehend the english language at a proficient level, according to 2011 state testing data. Only half of all ELLs graduated from high school. Furthermore, those students who did graduate
had only barely passing test scores. Research from the U.S. Justice Department found that Boston City Schools were not providing adequate learning services and opportunities for ELLs. Such facts support the idea of public school teachers being required to obtain ESL certification
in order to better educate ELLs and prepare them for proficiency in the core curriculum, and also meet the proficiency goals of the NCLB law (Toness, 2011).
Education Week. (2011). english-language learners. Retrieved from
Slavin, R., Madden, N., & Calderon, M. (2010). Reading and language outcomes of a
five-year randomized evaluation of transitional bilingual education. Retrieved
TESOL. (2007). Teaching opportunities in the united states. Retrieved from
Toness, B. V. (2011). Through charter school, english language learners in the spotlight.
Retrieved from http://www.wbur.org/2011/03/11/ell-charter.
UPI. (2007). united states faces teacher shortage. Retrieved from
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). ESL teacher requirements with career
Information. Retrieved from http://education
Zehr, M.A. (2009). No child left behind: Did Bush get it right? Retrieved from