Preparation of ESL Teachers in Common Core Era

Happy Spring! After spending much of March providing professional development to ESL and content teachers in a few states, as well as attending the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Portland, OR, I'm happy to be back in the Washington, DC area and blogging again! In this blog post, I'll focus on some take-aways from a new paper about the role of ESL professionals in the Common Core era that ties together a lot of the themes I heard from teachers in March.

The paper is called Changes in the Expertise of ESL Professionals: Knowledge and Action in an Era of New Standards and is written by Guadalupe Valdés, Amanda Kibler, and Aída Walqui. It was published by TESOL International Association and builds on TESOL's Changing Role of the ESL Teacher brief, as well as TESOL's Overview of the Common Core State Standards Initiatives for ELLs paper. (You can read our friend Lesli Maxwell's blog post about the new paper here.)

The new paper's aim is to review the changes brought about by the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards and discuss their implications for ESL teacher expertise and preparation. While the paper provides an in-depth focus on several topics, I'll look at one area in particular in this post: how coursework in teacher education programs as well as professional development must be reframed to reflect the new demands placed on ESL teachers within the Common Core framework.


Suggestions for ESL Teacher Preparation

The authors examine the ways in which ESL teachers have traditionally developed their expertise through coursework and professional development in applied linguistics, second language acquisition, and methods or curricular design. Here I've pulled out their suggestions for reframing these areas as well as their recommendation for adding collaboration to the mix.

Coursework/Professional Development (PD) AreaAuthors' Suggestions for Reframing within CCSS Era
Applied LinguisticsTeachers have to understand how and why language is used in various disciplines. Applied linguistics must prepare teachers to understand the traditions and patterns of language use that is typical of different disciplines (e.g., science, mathematics) and also the implicit values and traditions that undergird these disciplines and that guide language use.
Second Language AcquisitionCourses and PD must be updated to reflect current understandings of second language acquisition, as well as the bilingual/multilingual realities in which ELLs live. The paper's appendix offers more robust suggestions on second language acquisition.
Methods/Curricular DesignCourses in teaching the four skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking or in designing curriculum must be reconceptualized too so that teachers are supported in creating opportunities for ELLs to engage in developing language in both content and ESL classroom settings.
CollaborationThis area is now essential. ESL teachers need to learn to collaborate with content teachers to a greater extent. ESL teachers will be team-teaching, co-planning, and helping content teachers develop an understanding of ELLs' learning needs.

My Take-Aways

While there is so much food for thought provided in the paper, I'm just going to focus on a few “a-ha” moments that reading it inspired in relation to three projects or initiatives that have been on my mind recently: (1) the TESOL P-12 Professional Teaching Standards, (2) the edTPA teacher performance assessment, and (3) a new MOOC being created by TESOL.

Impact on TESOL P-12 Professional Standards

On a personal note, this paper is going to be extremely helpful to me as I work with a team at TESOL to revise TESOL's P-12 Professional Teaching Standards during the next couple of years. TESOL's Professional Standards define TESOL's expectations for ESL teacher education programs granting initial certification or licensure to ESL teachers. The eleven standards are grouped under five domains of Language, Culture, Instruction, Assessment, and Professionalism. These standards undergird the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) national recognition process of ESL teacher certification or licensure programs across the United States and, more recently, internationally. Currently, 133 ESL certification programs are nationally recognized by CAEP using the TESOL standards. The authors' suggestions for the types of expertise now required by ESL teachers will definitely inform my thinking about how the standards might need to change to reflect new expectations.

Kellogg-Funded TESOL Grant

The paper also caused me to consider its implications for another upcoming project, the new grant TESOL recently received from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The grant will include three phases with a target audience for each phase: pre-service teachers, in-service teachers, and school administrators. My group DSF Consulting is helping TESOL in phase one to develop a catalogue of resources and pilot a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) for university professors to use with their pre-service teacher candidates, and I think these recommendations will be helpful as we plan our approach.

edTPA

Finally, I found myself thinking quite a bit about the edTPA while reading through the paper. The edTPA was developed by Stanford University and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and is now delivered by Evaluation Systems, a Pearson group. As new changes to ESL teacher preparation, such as the edTPA assessment in English as an Additional Language, take hold for ESL teacher candidates in a growing number of states, those who use the edTPA will need to keep the reframed ESL teacher expertise this paper outlines in mind. I'd also argue that the edTPA scorers should be aware of this paper, too. (Stay tuned for a future blog post on what the edTPA is and what it means for pre-service ESL teachers.)


Your "A-Ha" Moments

So, I've shared three ways in which the contents of this paper impact my work in supporting ELLs and their teachers. What are your "a-ha" moments after reading it? Please comment in the space below!

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Comments

Aha! This paper did not address preschool! According to the CRDC*, at least 60% of U.S. public schools have preschool and that means most elementary ESL teachers will, at some point, be asked to work with preschool ELLs (which we call DLLs). Still, most ESL teacher prep programs cover nothing about the learning and development of 3 and 4 year old children. This is a huge and worrisome aha moment - and I look forward to seeing TESOL step up to address this critical gap in services. Preparing teachers to get our youngest students off to the right start couldn't be more important - and it certainly shouldn't be an afterthought!
* https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/expansive-survey-americas-public-...

This is a very informative and interesting paper. It gives important insight to the changing definitions and roles of ELL teachers. It also highlights that we are only making best guesses around what constitutes academic language proficiency and there is no "empirical evidence supporting the academic language constructs of ELP standards of states and consortia. Nonetheless, we test these ELP standards and constructs through high stakes English Language Proficiency assessments.as if they are verified constructs. This is a problem. It is understandable that ELP constructs/standards are still evolving, but students' EL proficiency should not be measured in a summative format based on unverified theoretical constructs. The authors give great information about the history and development of language learning theory, but also clearly show that we are just beginning to establish the foundation of an empirically based construct of academic language.

Thank you for highlighting these resources. My question is around how to use this information as an advocacy tool within a school community? So often ESL and Bilingual teachers are trying to convince administrators and other teachers of the value of what they "could" be doing when they are repeatedly told to support reading instruction because that is the language skill the students need. I'd love to hear other's thoughts on how to apply the information in this report!

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