Chinese Association of Idaho State University (CAISU)
Why the Race to Find Bilingual Teachers?
There is a persistent shortage of dual-language teachers as the number of English language learners in American schools continues to rise. While a number of districts have looked to the short-term solution of hiring from Spanish-speaking countries like Spain and Mexico, two new papers from New America highlight recommendations for how to incubate bilingual talent stateside.bilingual teacher qualification
Roughly 5 million K-12 students in the United States are classified as ELLs, specifically targeted for assistance in achieving English proficiency. That accounts for about 1 in every 10 American schoolchildren, the great majority of them children of Spanish-speaking immigrants. And although they are sometimes assumed to be clustered in states like California, Texas, and Florida, tens of thousands have also trekked to the Pacific Northwest.
The two new papers from New America showcase the region’s struggle to recruit qualified bilingual educators and help ELLs catch up with their native English-speaking classmates. Researchers identified methods that have helped remove licensure barriers and bring more dual-language educators into the system, though they also highlight the danger posed by President Trump’s threat to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
According to a 2015 study by the Migration Policy Institute, the state of Washington boasts the eighth-largest ELL population in the country, and both Washington and Oregon are among the nine states with the highest ELL student density. Stymied by a dearth of existing candidates with highly specialized credentials, two districts in those states resolved to create their own. Yet both will struggle to retain them if the Trump administration makes good on its commitment to end DACA, which is estimated to protect 20,000 teachers from deportation.
Although reports abound of DACA-eligible students wracked with uncertainty over their immigration status, the full impact of the program’s repeal will be borne by countless other children if their teachers simply disappear from school. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, who presides over a district that is over 30 percent ELL, said in a recent Vox interview that he has specifically tried to attract DACA teachers.
“It’s hard to find great teachers, period. Great bilingual teachers is even more important,” he said. “And we have very strong teachers here that we’ve invested in and helped train.”