The Importance of Preparing Teachers to Educate Vulnerable Populations

Program Recommendations for Practitioners

Schools seeking to provide high quality development for teachers in the field of English Language learners must be aware of what works and what does not work. These professional development programs should include the following:
• Establish high standards for academic content within lesson planning and ELLs’ language acquisition, instruction and testing. This would require general education teachers to be held to the same standards as any bilingual teacher operating in the school.
• Use of effective pedagogy skills and knowledge on ELLs.
• Demonstrate how to implement strategies that simultaneously integrate language and content learning as well as exposure to successful instructional approaches that increases ELLs’ academic achievement.
• Align teachers’ learning opportunities with their real work experiences, using actual curriculum materials and assessments.
• Provide adequate time for professional development and ensure that the extended opportunities to learn to emphasize observing and analyzing students’ understanding of the instruction. The hours of development should be forty to fifty hours of training. Anything less will not yield any positive effects.

A strict evaluation of the professional development system must be put in place. Most states and school districts do not know how much money is spent on professional development for teachers or what the benefit is because they do not systematically evaluate how well the additional training works. An effective evaluation includes an examination of actual classroom practices, the impact of the training on teacher behavior, and its effect on student learning. “Evaluation should be an ongoing process that starts in the earliest stages of program planning and continues beyond the end of the program.” (Holland 2005)

Policy Recommendations for Policy Makers
The federal government has very limited power in setting education policies across the nation. But under ESEA and its guidelines, this power has increased and is currently influencing policy at the state and local levels. Amid all the issues targeting the education of our country, the teaching profession should not be overlooked. Policy makers need to ensure that a reauthorized ESEA does the following:

1) Introduces teacher training requirements that address the unequal distribution of highly qualified teachers across districts. These provisions are necessary so students can be guaranteed an effective education and could be further strengthened for English Language Learners by requiring general education teachers to be properly trained as demonstrated by specific credentials and professional development to advance both language and academic proficiency in ELLs, thus becoming highly qualified (August et al. 2011).

2) Promotes and supports teacher preparation and training by allocating $1 million award per state through competitive grants. We need to fund programs that build the capacity of general education teachers and ESL educators to differentiate instruction and assessment of ELLs as well as teach ELLs the academic language required to successfully access academic content. ELL experts need to be involved at every level of design and implementation to close the achievement gap this specific group currently faces. Their expertise and knowledge of the ELL community and their teachers could serve as a guide and outline of what legislation should focus on in order to have educators teaching vulnerable students like ELLs in an effective and substantive manner.

3) Advises research to determine a baseline for adequate funding of ELL programs and require states to dedicate at least that amount to ELL programs as a condition of receiving ESEA and Title III funds (Crawford, 2011). Educating ELLs it is more costly than educating a non-English Language learner. Therefore we need to make sure that we allocate the right amount of funding to support professional development programs that will yield well-trained teachers to educate these students.

4) Allocates funds of Title II to specific activities at the district-level that will improve the quality of professional development for general education teachers educating ELLs. Since 2002, the funding for professional development has increased. However, monitoring of development programs and their effectiveness have not been measured (Chait and Miller 2009). The reauthorization of ESEA needs to design a system of oversight to observe where the funds are going and how effective these funds are per development program.

5) Ensures that school districts have reliable systems for evaluating the impact of professional development on teachers’ practices and student learning. More attention needs to be paid to the kind of development program that is implemented, and its success should be shown by data driven measures. Database decision-making should promote systematic collection of data to build evidence of effectiveness of the programs. Districts also have to do a better job advancing the requirement of showing teacher competency to ELLs after completing any professional development training.

6) Guarantees resources to selected states to work toward the development of a broad national framework that captures the many dimensions of the academic English, hence, training for teachers. As a consequence, ESEA should also strive to incentivize professional development for teachers with the goal of having at least 70 percent of teachers’ highly qualified–meaning having skills to teach both content and language to ELLs by the year 2020. There must be an ongoing federal support toward programs like the National Professional Development (NPD) program, which is the only federal program that targets training for personnel that serves ELLs. With a funding of $40 million since 2002, the NPD has been able to allocate grants for 8,000 teachers and train 1,700 teachers through in-service and were able to complete the certification for ESL; however, this number should be larger given the growing ELL student population (Barrera 2011).

7) Raises the current appropiations cap under Title III by fifteen percent for teacher preparation. ELL enrollments are expanding throughout the country, especially in several states where school personnel have limited experience and expertise in serving these students. Therefore, under Title III, Congress should lift the cap on appropriations for pre- and in-service preparation of bilingual and ESL teachers and also set aside fifteen percent of Title III funds for the National Professional Development program mentioned before (Crawford 2011).


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