In 2013-2014, Louisiana had more than 14,000 English language learners (ELL) in its public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The percent of public school students participating in programs for English language learners went up from 1.7 in the 2003-2004 school year to 2.2 percent for 2013-2014.
Which programs are available to ELL students in Louisiana public schools depends on the school district in which they are enrolled. The first step is to determine if the student qualifies for ELL educational services.
How Louisiana Identifies ELL Students
According to the Education Commission of the States, an ELL student “is defined as a child who is working to learn a second language (English) while continuing to develop his or her first (or home) language.”
Criteria in Louisiana for identifying ELL students:
- Is aged three through 21.
- Has attended an English-speaking elementary or secondary school for less than a year.
- Was born outside the U.S. or whose native language is not English.
- Is a Native American, Alaska Native or native of outlying areas and comes from a place where a language other than English is dominant.
- Has difficulty speaking, reading, writing or understanding English that may affect the student’s ability to achieve the state’s minimum required score on state assessments, succeed in classrooms where instructions are in English, or participate fully in society.
Public schools offer English as a Second Language (ESL) programs to help non-native speakers improve their command of English. Students in Louisiana speak 80 different languages with the most common ESL languages being Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese and French.
In “Educating English Language Learners,” the W.K. Kellogg Foundation reports that English language learners constitute the fastest-growing population in U.S. public schools. Furthermore, it projects that by 2020, half of all public school students will be ELLs. Thus, the need for ESL teachers grows each year.
How to Become an ESL Teacher in Louisiana
The requirements to become an ESL teacher may vary by school district. Generally, ESL teachers are ESL-certified while general education teachers have been trained in ESL strategies. The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association explains the requirements for qualified ESL teachers in the U.S.:
“Most teaching positions in U.S. public schools require the applicant to hold a teaching license in the subject they wish to teach, issued by the state in which they wish to work. Confusingly, this license is sometimes called a ‘certificate’ or ‘certification.’ This is not the same thing as CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), Trinity, or other independent certificates, which are generally not applicable toward employment in U.S. public schools.
“The ‘ESL certificate’ referred to in most job announcements for positions in the United States is actually a licensure that teachers must apply for and receive through the Department of Education in the state in which they will be working. To obtain this certificate, individuals must meet certain academic requirements which vary from one state to another. Generally speaking, individuals are usually required to have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in education, although some states now require a Master’s degrees [sic] for licensure.”
Bulletin 746: Louisiana Standards for State Certification of School Personnel documents teacher certification procedures mandated by Louisiana legislation and State Board policy.
Section 667 lists the eligibility requirements for teaching English as a Second Language:
- Valid standard teaching certificate.
- Add-on ESL endorsement, which requires completing 12 hours of the following courses:
- Methods of Teaching ESL.
- Introduction to Language and Culture.
- Structure of the English Language.
- Curriculum Design for the Multicultural Classroom.
Louisiana has three types of professional certificates, which are valid for different time frames depending on certification guidelines. Once earned, the ESL certification is valid in the area in which a teacher is certified.
After becoming eligible to teach in Louisiana, teachers can maintain their certification by following the renewal requirements for their certificate type. The Louisiana Department of Education lists all state-approved Educator Preparation Program providers.
Earning a Master of Education with an ESL Specialty Online
Teachers who want to expand their knowledge of teaching ESL can enroll in an online M.Ed. program with an ESL specialization. For example, LSU Shreveport is a state-approved Educator Preparation Program provider. Its ESL-focused M.Ed. program in Curriculum and Instruction offers the four required courses for the add-on ESL endorsement while allowing students to complete M.Ed. coursework.
The program combines online classes with hands-on field experiences in schools. Students will learn how to help ELLs master English as well as succeed in courses taught in English.
Coursework in the M.Ed. program prepares candidates to teach ELL students in grades kindergarten through 12 in Louisiana public schools. Other job opportunities available to program graduates include positions with the Department of Defense, as teachers of ESL adults, and as English teachers in other countries.
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