Are teachers and administrators prepared to teach and supported in their teaching of English learners?

Recently, a series of regional meetings entitled the National Conversations on English Learner Education was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.  The purpose of the meetings was to discuss issues and challenges to educating English language learners in our country. A summary document was created based on these discussions. I want to highlight the summary statements about teacher professional development.  Are teachers prepared to teach and supported in their teaching of English learners?  This is what the experts say about our preparedness:

  1. Prepare all teachers and administrators to teach and make decisions for the benefit of ELs 
  2. Only one in five teacher preparation programs includes a full course on teaching ELs 
  3. No administrator certification programs include any EL based course requirement (cultural diversity classes are insufficient) 
  4. In-service course work in teaching strategies and evaluation of ELs are inconsistent throughout school districts/states 
  5.  Need a different perspective on ESL classes 
  6. There needs to be opportunity for educators to meet across school and district lines. 
  7. Schools need to be encouraged, and models provided, to free-up time for teachers to meet.
  8. Create an online information website to develop teachers' cultural competencies 
  9. Teachers need to learn what their students’ parents school experiences were like and what the parent might possibly be telling the student about school 
  10. Pre-service teachers must be taught the skills and expectations that prepare them for involvement with the community and parents. 
  11. Collaboration of school boards, superintendents and administrative personnel to develop and implement rigorous teacher preparation programs in meeting and working to meet the needs of diversity of EL students in the 21st Century.    
  12. Provide professional development for all teachers, administrators and family support staff working with young ELs around language development and second language acquisition.


  1. All teacher training programs should contain more than one course on teaching/evaluating ELs

  2. All administrative certificate programs must contain a course in decision making/program selection (specifically language instruction educational programs for ELs)

  3. All in-service teachers must take EL coursework

  4. EL coursework should be a qualifier for the designation of “highly qualified teacher” without regard to content area of expertise

  5. ESL classes should be part of the “mainstream” of core classified courses, not treated as an “elective” 

    (Issues from the National Conversations on Educating English Learners for the 21st Century

    September 21, 2011, accessed:

    What do you think are the major issues and needs in English language learner education?  What can we do about them?  How can we take action?

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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