Oregon schools are failing to teach English as a second language

After five or more years learning English as their second language in Oregon schools, 75 percent of those students still are not proficient in English according to a report out today.

Read more in this article from the Oregonian.

One key point in the report that stood out to me, ODE took a page from the No Child Left Behind playbook and has withheld funding from programs for the very students who are already not getting an adequate education. 

Assistant State Superintendent Colleen Mileham notified Portland in late September that the state would withhold federal funds, a step it rarely takes, to communicate how important it is to consistently serve English language learners well. (This is a loss of more than $600,000 a year to the state’s largest district.)

Portland may be the first large school district in the country to have its federal funds for English proficiency withheld. Mary Ann Zehr, an assistant editor at the national education newspaper Education Week, says, “In a decade of reporting on English language learners for EdWeek, I’ve never heard of a state department of education withholding Title III funds from a district.”

Well, there is one way of getting the attention of a school district.  I wonder if anyone thinks this may have additional negative impacts on students who are already underserved?

On the flip side, teachers who have made a paradigm shift, who see the learning of all students as their responsibility may be better able to teach content to bilingual students.   Moving past the deficit notion that  these students lack English, to the acknowledgement that they are daily able to bridge multiple cultures and multiple languages, teachers who are trained to teach second language students may be the missing link in offering new English speakers an adequate education.

UO Teach is now requiring all newly certified teachers have English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training.

Pacific University offers ESOL endorsement, but scanning their web site ESOL training does not appear to be in the core coursework for elementary or secondary education certification.

Overall, there are an abundance of teacher training programs in Oregon.  I’d suggest looking at the ESOL coursework available at any campus when considering the comprehensive training of the program. 

If teacher certification programs do not require ESOL training and current practicing teachers are not required to ‘go back’ and get ESOL endorsements it is going to be very difficult to get past this problem:

Oregon schools generally do a good job helping students progress through the early stages of speaking, reading and writing English, the state report says.

The problem occurs when schools try to move students to advanced and proficient levels so that they can exit the English as second language program. Helping students master complex verb tenses, idioms and advanced academic language is challenging, says Kim Miller, statewide coordinator of English as a second language programs.

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