Originally posted January 28, 2013 on Colorin Colorado by Diane Staehr Fenner

The implementation of the Common Core means that all students, including English language learners, will face new demanding academic and cognitive requirements across content areas and grade levels. For ELLs, English language development (ELD) standards provide a tool for defining the types of language ELLs will need to acquire in order to achieve under the CCSS.

Many states have not yet revised their ELD standards so that they correlate with the CCSS, but one consortium and two states stand out from the crowd at this point in time. They have developed ELD standards that help define the language demands of ELLs under the CCSS. WIDA has developed “amplified” ELD standards, California has adopted new ELD standards, and New York State has recently released sample language progressions for teachers of ELLs to use to support them in teaching the CCSS to ELLs.

In order for ELLs to succeed academically in US schools, all teachers who work will ELLs will need to be well versed with the Common Core standards and ELD standards. Beyond understanding both kinds of standards, all teachers who work with ELLs will also need to be trained so that they have the skills needed to implement both sets of standards for the ELLs they work with. This post focuses on how teacher preparation programs are preparing all teachers to teach the CCSS to ELLs.

Preparing All Teachers of ELLs

The current landscape of licensure requirements for general education and content area teachers to work with ELLs varies widely from state to state. For example, a few states require a certain amount of coursework for all teachers in working with ELLs, but others require no ELL training to their pre-service teachers. Even for states that require some training on working with ELLs, exactly how this coursework plays out on the ground may look very different within each state. For example, while ESL teacher preparation programs are more likely to prepare ESL teachers to use ELD standards with ELLs, content or general education teacher preparation programs may not focus on using ELD standards to instruct ELLs.

Preparing Teachers of ELLs for the Common Core

On top of that already complex licensure picture we must now add preparation for the CCSS, which also varies greatly between districts, let alone across states. The interface between the patchwork quilt approach to preparing all teachers to work with ELLs and the new requirements of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will have many implications for our profession. One implication is that teacher licensure programs must now increase their focus on preparing all teachers to teach the CCSS to ELLs.

On a related note, I just coordinated TESOL International Association’s review of thirty ESL teacher licensure programs for accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). When I looked through the ESL programs’ applications as part of the Fall 2012 TESOL/NCATE review process, I did not immediately see that any programs that explicitly prepared ESL teachers for the new demands of the Common Core. Teacher education programs will need some time to work with the P-12 districts they serve, catch up on the CCSS demands for ELLs, and build new skills teacher need through their programs’ coursework and student teaching requirements. Based on the limited data via the TESOL/NCATE reviews, I am concerned that higher education and P-12 might not yet be in synch on this issue.

However, I would very much like to be proved wrong. If you work in higher education or in a district that partners with a local college or university, please let our community know what changes the higher ed program is making so that newly licensed teachers will be prepared to teach the CCSS to ELLs. Let’s share some best practices on this topic.

Also, if you happen to be attending the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)conference in Orlando next week, I’ll be giving a presentation on preparing teachers of ELLs to meet the new demands of the CCSS. Please stop by and say hello!