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California and Arizona are cited as the only two states that require all teachers and staff to be certified as specialists in English Language Learning (ELL) methods, even if they don’t teach students who are learning English as a new language, according to a new report by the Education Commission of the States.

The report recommends that at the very least, all states should require every teacher who is a candidate for a credential to receive some training in ELL instruction. The report states the change is necessary because students who are learning English are taught by teachers who overwhelmingly lack training in ELL instruction. 

The report says that states also need to make districts which are recipients of funding for English language learners more accountable for how they’re serving those students. Districts should show how they’re meeting the needs of those students before receiving additional funding, the report states.

Key measures for meeting the needs of English language learners, the report says, include the level of funding for training teachers, the ability of state programs to identify students who need help learning English and the ability of states and school districts to track those students.

Good communication with parents is an important way for states to get students signed up for programs that serve their language needs, the report says.

New York and New Jersey are among a few states that require ELL teachers or other school staff who speak the “home language” of the parents to help parents fill out forms about their children’s language needs. The consequence of not using teachers with those qualifications to talk to parents, the report says, is that parents may be hesitant to fill out the formscarefully, correctly, or at all.”

English language learners, according to the report, benefit from pre-kindergarten services. But only five states — Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Texas — have policies that require state-subsidized pre-K programs to provide instruction for English language learners.

While nearly 25 percent of California’s public school students are English language learners, the state does not require specialized instruction for those students. However, it has developed specific guidelines on serving the needs of children in pre-kindergarten programs.

The Education Commission of the States has also created a database of state policies for English language learners.


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