- A district in Sacramento, California, is paying up to $10,000 in bonuses to attract bilingual teachers, while others are hoping extra training will push educators toward finishing the bilingual certification they may have started.
- According to a new paper in Education Next, those are among the strategies districts the state is using to meet the demand for credentialed educators, spurred by a 2016 ballot measure that repealed a proposition requiring English-only instruction. In addition, many bilingual programs are taking the form of dual-language immersion programs, which require teachers to have more advanced skills in the second language as well as in English.
- In higher education, some universities stopped preparing bilingual teachers when Proposition 227, which required English language learners to be taught only in English immersion classrooms, passed in 1998. Those that continued their programs, however — such as San Diego State University — are working to increase the supply by partnering with community colleges to shorten the length of time it takes earn a degree and the credential.
Dual-language immersion programs are gaining in popularity among English-speaking — and often more affluent — families as the workforce increasingly values bilingualism and research points to the academic benefits of such programs. True immersion programs typically begin in kindergarten, with only 10% of instruction in English and 90% in the second language, and gradually reach 50% for each language by the upper elementary grades.
Advocates for these programs argue students can become fluent and literate in two languages. But parents of English learners are sometimes less enthusiastic because they worry their children won’t learn English quickly enough. And in some urban areas, such as Washington, African-American parents have expressed concerns that the programs mean increasing gentrification that is pushing their children out of neighborhood schools.
Almost 40% of California’s K-12 students enter schools as English learners, according to the Education Next article, making the demand there especially pronounced. But other states are also experiencing shortages of bilingual teachers. One contributing factor is states’ licensing requirements often don’t match up, making it hard for teachers credentialed in one state to go where the demand is greater, according to a 2015 New America article about Connecticut’s efforts to address similar challenges. The state passed legislation that, among other provisions, reduced the time an out-of-state teacher could qualify to teach in Connecticut and allowed for 90-day temporary certificates in shortage areas.
The Education Next paper says that expanding dual-language programs in California “will require many more well-trained, bilingual, and biliterate teachers and sustained attention to maintaining quality and equity.” However, that could probably be said about many states.