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Marginalization of the ESL profession

  • 1.  Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 09-10-2017 12:38
    The ESL/ESOL program is being marginalized in some school districts. The implementation of Sheltered Instruction is hurting teachers and students. This model forces teachers to simultaneously teach Language development and  the curriculum of another subject. It is being detrimental to the education of our children because of two reasons. First of all it is not logical to combine two different content courses. Secondly, Most of the teachers implementing the Sheltered Instruction Model are not ESL certified. I would like to hear what you think about this topic and if you have some ideas about how we can work towards the development of a policy that protects our profession and the right our children have to receive quality of education.

    Thanks,

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    Yaqueline Clauss
    Coolidge Senior High School
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  • 2.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 10-10-2017 01:56
    Never heard of this strange concept...

    Authors of this concept should be taught swimming this way...

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    [Nick] [Koretsky]
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  • 3.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 10-10-2017 08:00
    Yaqueline makes a very important (and timely) point and Nick's response is on the mark.  Thank you to both for these messages.  As a "veteran" in TESOL, I can tell you that these same issues were raised in the United States in the 1960s, leading then to the formation of the TESOL Association (1966), then (about the same period), a large body of research - funded by local, state and federal agencies at universities, Center for Applied Linguistics and many other groups, as well as private funding.  "Show us the research!"  said the naysayers.  Now, in 2017, we are (as I have referred to it elsewhere) "backsliding."  K-12 public education in many states have gone to extreme lengths to get funding for ESL - sometimes (as Yaqueline describes) with "sheltered" models and others, even with Special Education funds.  Where I live (and elsewhere too), the idea of requiring a Master's in TESOL as a hiring requirement for ESL teachers has gone away.  Funding cuts are driving the backsliding, in my opinion.  The research is in place; we know these "sheltered" programs and "special ed" identification for ESL students is wrong.  We know those don't work.  At times, it makes me sad that we have backslid; but then, problems never go away - we will be fighting for our professional lives into the future.  Grateful for folks like  you who are trying hard.  Yes, our profession is being marginalized; but so are our students in US K-12 public schools in too many cases.  Sorry to seem like Debby Downer today!

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    Lizabeth England
    Consultant, TESOL
    Liz England & Associates
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  • 4.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 10-10-2017 23:18
    Thank you very much Lizabeth for providing this important context of what has been happening for decades.  I could not agree more with you. As TESOL/ESOL certified professionals we know what works and is best for our ELLs. We need to take action if we want to provoke change. I have written a petition and hopefully with the support of my union, I will get the support my students, parents and I need to bring up the issue. As educators, we have a social responsibility to voice not only our concerns but to communicate what is truly happening in our schools.

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    Yaqueline Clauss
    Coolidge Senior High School
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  • 5.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 10-10-2017 10:18
    I'll share my perspective in this having worked in K12 all my life once I moved to the US.

    NCLB and ESSA have increased the accountability for the performance of ELs (as my district calls them). Many are struggling to meet these mandates for a number of reasons. But primarily budget, number of ELs and trained professionals are top issues in my reason.

    In most districts, money is scarce. So they usually establish the ratio of 1 ESL teacher per 20-30 students. Mandate is met, but quality of instruction lacks. Think of a school who fits the criteria. How good of a job and ESL teacher can do when she's the only teacher for the entire school? That happens a lot in elementary schools across the US.

    Qualified professionals is also very hard to find. In my area, there's plenty of licensed professionals. However, It is very hard to hire an ESL teacher knowledgeable enough to teach language through content. Additionally, these professional aren't unfamiliar with the demands of teaching long-term ELs.

    I would also like to review the term "sheltered". SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) a widely popular model for content-based language teaching, calls it an approach that integrates both language and content teaching. SIOP has ripped a lot of success by training content-area teachers (or non ESL teachers) how to do that. Given the context of K12, it is impossible to have an ESL teacher in every class there is an EL.

    I disagree it isn't logical to combine both areas of knowledge. To me, it makes total sense that language learning is driven by a reason why to learn it. In fact, I had a student exit the ELL program within 2 years from her arrival in the US. Her drive? Get a college scholarship. She often says that, because she was studying for school, she feels she pushed herself to learn English as fast as she could. But to achieve such level of achievement, program has to have good structures in place.

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    Rejane Martins
    Alexandria City Public Schools
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  • 6.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 10-10-2017 23:03
    I appreciate your contributions to the discussion from your personal experience. I understand the limitations in terms of budget and human force. However, the main issue here is that most of the ELLs are not having access to a meaningful educational program because they are not learning English as they should "English as a Second Language". This is a violation to their Civil Rights. There are very few successful stories of ELLs like the one that you have referenced, as a result of participation in the cited model of instruction.  If the system continues as it is right now,  our ELLs will graduate without the English language skills they need to succeed in life and college. I am advocating for ELLs because I know the power of language and I do not want ELLs to be in disadvantage. I want ELLs to be proficient and able to participate in their schools and communities.    Most of the students I serve didn't complete elementary school, had years of interrupted education, experienced trauma, work 4- 8 hours everyday, etc.  They lack of the transferable skills that could assist them in a Sheltered classroom without the support of an ESL teacher. I am talking about English learners " beginners and low  intermediate"" who are having to deal with fustration and humiliation for being in an environment that is hurting them more than helping them. They deserve this topic to be debated and alternative solutions be explored to comply to the law. Most importantly, EL programs have to be researched to evaluate effectiveness. Thanks again.

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    Yaqueline Clauss
    Coolidge Senior High School
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  • 7.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 11-10-2017 18:12
    Interesting and important points being made, but I would like to add more detail and ask for more info on research. How best to help ELLs with both English acquisition and content area success is  a topic that I have been struggling with at my school for years. I am coming from mostly a high school ESL in the USA perspective here, but would love more info on these topics as they relate to elementary school in the USA.

    Some questions:

    1) Assuming that students got "English as a Second Language" English classes, what would all their other classes look like? Should "regular" schools have "ESL Biology" or "ESL Math III"? What about English Language Arts class? Is that separate from the ESL class?  Would these ESL Content Classes teach English? Or just use more simplified / L1 language materials? (In other words, how would it differ in practice from a sheltered classroom?)

    2) If schools do not have "ESL Content Class", then I assume the ELLs would be in with the mainstream students in a "mainstream" content class. How will this help them learn English? How will they actually manage to acquire the content? How is this helpful for them in any significant way?

    3) Along with the above - I assume that most ESL teachers do not also have licenses to teach ELA. If that is the case, then ESL English class by itself cannot help students with English credits toward graduation.  Without team teaching or other sheltered strategy, how is this addressed?

    4) What does the research show? Last I heard, the "What Works Clearinghouse" had said that SIOP did not have acceptable research showing that it was effective. I forget the exact wording, but my feeling is that the research that has been done did not meet the WWC's criteria for acceptable research.

    5) What research backs up the other (currently unnamed) programs or approaches that people here would prefer?

    Personal anecdote: When I started at my school district, ELL students had both ELA English class and ESL English class. Aside from ESL, they were in all mainstream classes. The two English classes was just added stress on the students, and on me as well, because while I was trying to help them bring their reading level up and increase their vocabulary, improve their grammar, etc., the ELA class was doing work that was much too difficult for many of my students. Oh, and biology vocab and worksheets were killing them as well.

    Now, I actively collaborate with *all* of the content teachers, to help them help our ELLs. I help find materials; modify texts, assignments, and assessments; advocate for our ELLs; and make sure they receive the accommodations to which they are entitled.  I proctor small group testing. I go into classrooms as much as I can, but also pull out if a student or students need more one-on-one help with the content or the English. I also do training for teachers on how to teach so that ELLs can better acquire the content (lots of sheltered instruction strategies). I also teach one ESL class for newcomers, to help them get a foundation in the language. Our current system seems to be working well, but to be honest, we've only been doing it a few years and we have a somewhat small and transient student population - so we don't have as much hard data as I would like.


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    Chris Spackman
    ESL Coordinator, The Graham Family of Schools
    Columbus, Ohio
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  • 8.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 12-10-2017 10:22
    How about the 'novel' concept of teaching some content courses in the language and others in English? How about addressing American 'monolingualmaina' by 'X'FL classes for the domestic students. The SLL are burdened enough with getting up to academic speed in the new language. Why not truly level the playing field. It may cost a bit more up front, but it will cost far, far less going down the road.

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    Sharon A. Peters
    Instructor, Developmental Program
    Texas Wesleyan University
    Ft Worth, TX
    sapeters@txwes.edu

    ESL/Developmental/Curriculum Design
    Arlington, TX
    USA
    sapeters.esl@gmail.com
    1 +512-694-3973
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  • 9.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 15-10-2017 16:25
    I completely agree. That is what I know my students need. We will continue fighting for the wellbeing of teachers and students.

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    Yaqueline Clauss
    Coolidge Senior High School
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  • 10.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 12-10-2017 04:18

    Yacqueline starts this thread by saying, 'First of all it is not logical to combine two different content courses.' ( - presumably 'English language' and a mainstream course such as maths, science or social studies') My own take on this issue, however, is that the focus in English language activities is, or should be, qualitatively very different from that in most mainstream courses, especially at the higher levels. English learners are not primarily being taught 'content'. Rather, they are being taught to communicate, i.e. they are learning a set of skilled behaviours - knowing how to - as opposed to knowing that. The problem is that English teachers need to have their students communicate about something. If that something (content) has no relation to what is being learned in mainstream classes, an additional cognitive load is placed on the learner. For this reason, I believe that English language teaching needs to be integrated into mainstream courses. If this is done, not only might the content of those courses become more accessible to the learner but perhaps the targeting of specific language skills and sub-skills might be more appropriate and timely.

     This approach would place additional demands on English teachers. They would, for example, need to understand the mainstream content, perhaps in several different subject areas and across several grade levels. They might need to know, in advance of their intervention, specifically how the mainstream teacher was planning to deliver that content. Such demands might take English teachers out of their comfort zone but unless we find new ways of addressing this challenge we are likely to continue to be marginalized. One approach that works is to have the English teacher team teach with the mainstream teacher. This kills two birds with one stone – it makes content accessible to ELL's and it can provide an opportunity for mainstream teachers to see how that content can be structured as comprehensible input for both English L1 learners and ELL's. After all, good teaching is good communication regardless of who is on the receiving end of it.



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    Robin Corcos
    MEF International School, Izmir, Turkey
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  • 11.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 13-10-2017 09:22
    This has been an interesting thread for me to follow. It's a challenge to help English language learners develop language skills and keep up with content classes. In the hope that this will be helpful for people finding answers within their own contexts, I wanted to share a link to Stanford University's Understanding Language Initiative's "Six Key Principles for ELL Instruction." These are guiding principles for instructors as they plan curriculum that addresses both English language skills and content knowledge. Additionally, you might take a look at schools like Nansha College Preparatory Academy. This school uses the six principles as a foundation for curriculum planning in each class. All students who attend NCPA are English language learners who learn English through their content classes rather than through a separate ESL class. The school has an English as an Additional Language specialist embedded into each academic department to help co-plan and co-teach with content teachers as a way to help language learners learn English at the same time they learn content. This may not work in all contexts, but I thought a look at how one school addresses this challenge might spark ideas for people as they work within the realities of their own schools and districts.

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    Leanne Moore

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  • 12.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 15-10-2017 16:05
    Thank you Leanne for your contributions to the discussion.  I have heard about NCPA and the World language Initiative (WLI).  Their context is however very different to the school where I work, where a good number of students did not complete elementary school in their countries,  just to name an example. NCPA does significant investment in staffing, every department with EAL specialists who help plan and deliver lessons across the organization and they understand that building literacy in English  requires to leverage students' native language as a key to unlocking content in their courses. It means that they are set aware and consider the six key principles to support ELLs in meeting the rigorous, grade level academic standards found in the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

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    Yaqueline Clauss
    Coolidge Senior High School
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  • 13.  RE: Marginalization of the ESL profession

    Posted 15-10-2017 16:42
    Thank you Robin for your contributions to the discussion. There are always options that can work. However, asking teachers to do what they are not prepared for, leads to not effective practices. I agree that we all need to learn new ways to do things. However, new programs have to be slowly incorporated. Teachers and students need to feel comfortable, so teaching and learning can happen. My main issue with combining content areas has to do with different variables. There are specific contexts where neither teachers, nor students are ready to successfully participate of a Sheltered Program. I called illogical.  it might not be the best word to use. I believe "non-functional" might be better.

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    Yaqueline Clauss
    Coolidge Senior High School
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