One of the most challenging problems facing Illinois education is the teacher shortage affecting bilingual educators. Although a statewide issue, most students affected are concentrated in underfunded low income districts attended by large numbers of children of color, many who come from non-English speaking backgrounds. And this is not an issue for Spanish speakers but over 140 other languages as well.
To address the shortage, the Illinois State Board of Education has released the report, Teach Illinois. ISBE suggests diversifying options by allowing candidates to display competence through job-embedded programs and non-accredited non-Illinois Higher Education agencies. The report also recommends allowing local school districts to become their own teacher preparation agencies. These ideas may sound sensible but are short-term, short-sighted solutions.
As the Illinois English Learners Advocacy Council in Higher Education points out, Bilingual Education is a highly specialized and complex field. It requires deep knowledge of theory and research in second language acquisition, assessment, law and policy. Expertise in socio-emotional and cultural aspects pertinent to non-English speakers impacted by anti-immigration policies and social climate. Additionally, Illinois higher education licensure programs are accredited by independent professional organizations that have well established standards informed by rigorous research. Those standards are in place for a reason. Licensure and endorsement are mammoth tasks for universities. Local districts will not have the resources to be effective and efficient. Disregarding the warnings of our expertise strains the idea of officials doing their best for our children.
It is fine to demand that we all learn English, but that carries a responsibility to offer the best approaches to learners, not just the most convenient. I’m Joseph Flynn and that’s my perspective.