Academic Leadership: The Online Journal


The student population in the United States is rapidly changing; in 2004-2005, approximately 5.1 million or 10.5 percent of the U.S. student population were English-language learners (Pearson, 2006). The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES, 2003) revealed that 47 states provide English language services to English language learners (ELLs) enrolled in public schools. California alone educates 1.6 million ELLs, one-third of all the nation’s ELLs, while in Texas more than half a million students received ELL services, one in seven students (NCES). The problem is that a great number of these students are being served by teachers new to the field or that lack training in teaching linguistically diverse students. According to Zeichner (2003), “only about one fourth of teachers who work with English language learners nationally have received any substantive preparation with regard to ESL teaching strategies and language acquisition theory” (p. 494). Indeed, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2002) declared that the professional development area in which teachers were least expected to participate was that of addressing the needs of linguistically minority students; of the 41% of teachers nationwide with language minority students in their classrooms, only 12.5% participated in eight or more hours of professional development related to ELLs in the past 3 years. In fact, the National Education Association (NEA, 2002) has expressed concern that districts across the United States are facing difficulties stemming from the small percentages of bilingual/ESL teachers relative to the growing number of culturally linguistically diverse students. Yet certification of bilingual/ESL teacher candidates continues to be a challenge for teacher preparation programs.