How Educators are Addressing Disrupted Learning in ESL and Bilingual Students – The 74

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Ten students walk through the entrance of a K-12 school in America. Follow the data, and at least one will be an English learner.

In the United States, there are 5.3 million English language learners (also known as multilingual learners, bilingual learners, or emerging bilinguals), the fastest growing student population in the world. American K-12 education. In some districts, this can mean serving a student body that speaks more than 70 different languages.

Traditionally underserved even before the pandemic, English learners have been hit hard by COVID-19. Meanwhile, 32 states are experiencing shortages of English as a second language and bilingual teachers.

Yet teachers are innovative and resilient. As a provider of tools for ESL teachers in districts across the United States and more than 120 countries, Off2Class has witnessed student-centered innovation as districts effectively tackle to disrupted learning. Our new white paper, “Listening to the Teachers: Six Ways to Tackle Disrupted Learning in English Language Learners,” captures some of these innovations and lessons from the pandemic in a series of case studies and results from a 2021 survey of Off2Class educators.

Focus on the right tools

In times of scarcity, effective, research-backed educational technology is essential to save teachers time. But there is a dizzying array of choices. An educator highlighted in the white paper, Tarro Funchess, strives to put evidence and results at the heart of the adoption of any new educational technology.

Funchess is the English Language Coordinator for Mississippi Township Public Schools. Before an educational technology product is adopted and deployed, she gathers evidence and teacher buy-in to ensure it has the best chance of success. She also founded an informal consortium of English Learner Coordinators across the state, sharing research and best practices and their own experiences in educational technology. All of these strategies increase the likelihood of successful implementation.

“You have to work the program,” Funchess said. “You can’t just sit students on the computer and expect them to do what they’re supposed to do.”

Prioritize newcomers

Schools across the country are seeing an increase in the number of English learners – in the case of Springfield City School District in Ohio, for example, a 31% increase over last year. Learners from vulnerable backgrounds are still a reality, and a growing number of schools are now looking to integrate refugees from conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Ukraine.

These students face significant challenges in assimilating to their new schools. Effective educators put newcomers first, whether it’s ensuring classroom content is age-appropriate and addressing pedagogical gaps (i.e. grammar), provide virtual tutors, expand learning opportunities and offer a Newcomer Academy to help students transition and integrate into a new community.

Oklahoma City saw a great example of that kind of support this year. The Putnam City School District offered a special “Summer Recharge” program, targeting middle and high school newcomers who had been in the United States for less than a year, with the goal of helping them improve their language skills. English, learn computer skills and graduate. requirements — including passing a state-mandated citizenship test — and earn high school credits.

Led by high school English language facilitator Sally Diaz, the school program offered a mix of hands-on learning and technology-based instruction targeting classroom language skills, as well as real-world learning opportunities, external lectures and field trips. . The program achieved excellent results: 88% attendance on average, 100% of students passed the citizenship test, and 70% earned credit for computer literacy by demonstrating proficiency in programs such as Powerpoint and Excel. Based on observation, teachers reported an improvement in participants’ language skills.

Develop teacher capacity

By 2025, 1 in 4 students should learn English. But even before the pandemic, the supply of teachers fell far short of the demand. Addressing this need requires targeted interventions, such as self-development teacher preparation programs that take a holistic and comprehensive approach.

One example is in Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma, which serves 9,400 multilingual learners, representing 76 languages ​​and approximately 37% of the entire student population. Dr. Laura Grisso, Executive Director of Language and Culture Services, believes that excellent language teachers can come from all areas of the school and from all walks of life. So the district is prioritizing professional development to build the skills of existing teachers, while a program called Tulsa Teacher Corps, which follows what would traditionally be an emergency certification path, offers future educators who already have a state-funded bachelor’s degree coaching and graduate courses. .

Capacity is not just about training and hiring new teachers; it is about helping existing educators work more effectively and providing a support system of translators and instructors who can work directly with students, parents and the local community. Springfield City, for its part, does this by hiring students and graduates in English.

English learners will play an important role in the future of education in America. Districts must ensure that students can get the support and training they need to thrive and succeed in the workplace and in society. To do this, schools need to think about how to ensure that all teachers have the tools and training to serve language learners.

The lessons presented in the white paper are a start, but a shift in imagination and practice is needed, a shift that sees the ability to support language learning as a new core competency for all educators.

Back to school can’t just be a return to normal. The stakes are too high.

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