A report being released today by "Education Week" magazine grades states on how they are educating students who don’t speak English as their first language. Project director, Amy Hightower, says the students called "English language learners" have grown by 57% between 1995 and 2005. Hightower says their report examines how states have dealt with those students.
Hightower says the nation as a whole earned a "C" for policy and performance, with the highest grades in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Virginina — which each earned a "B." Mississippi, Idaho, Nevada and the District of Columbia had the lowest grades, which each earning a "D-plus." Iowa received an overall grade of "C."
Hightower says they found Iowa and other states are having a hard time keeping up with the need for teachers of English as a second language. She says there’s a mismatch between the number of teachers needed and the incentives used to attract them. Hightower says there’s a nationwide need for 56,000 new E-S-L teachers in the next five years, or a 38% increase. Hightower says those numbers don’t include California and five other states.
The report says Iowa alone will need an increase of over 131% in E-S-L teachers in the next five years. Researcher Mark Bomster says in Iowa, many small school districts are struggling to meet the education needs of a growing population of foreign speakers.
"These formerly rural, or non-diverse school systems have had to move very quickly to find the resources both in terms of money and in terms of qualified teachers, or to train up their own teachers to deal with these students," Bomser says.
But the survey’s director, Christopher Swanson, says the Iowa has laid the groundwork for a better performance. "There’s less socio-economic disadvantage in Iowa than the typical state, which is a big predictor of early-learning ability," Swanson says, "Iowa is doing better than the average state in how the k-12 system is performing. And it’s about average in how education translates into economic and other types of adult success."
The report gives Iowa a "B" in its measure of giving E-L-L students a chance for success. The achievement gap for students and the need for more E-S-L teachers were the topics of discussion in the Iowa Department of Education’s recent annual report on the state of education. To see the entire Education Week report, you can go on-line to the Education Week website at: .