Today I wrote the following email to members of the Oregon House and Senate education committees:
Dear members of the Oregon House and Senate Education Committee,
Please hold an informational hearing on the shortage of dual language immersion teachers in Oregon. Seek ideas on how Oregon can find, recruit and/or develop the teachers it needs to develop a globally competitive multilingual workforce and to close the achievement gaps of students whose primary language is not English. Changes may be needed in the current credentialing requirements for such teachers and in Oregon's public higher education's teacher training programs.
Portland Public Schools' Department of Dual Language reported to the PPS Board on 1/20/15 that it would not recommend needed additional Spanish, Mandarin or Japanese dual language immersion programs for next year primarily because of a shortage of bilingual teachers. Here is a chart from their presentation:
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and the Oregon Board of Education are engaging the issue of "How do we address the critical shortage of highly qualified bilingual teachers in Oregon?" On 12/11/14, ODE Education Equity staffer Martha Martinez reported to the Board on her survey of Oregon school districts as to their problems recruiting bilingual teachers. In her survey, she found that 80% of the 24 districts with bilingual programs surveyed indicated they had difficulties filling their bilingual teacher vacancies in 2014-15. 32% of districts with bilingual programs reported recruitment problems due to the candidate not being able to pass one of Oregon's required assessments for teachers. Martinez also asked the following important questions which could serve as the focus of your committee hearing:
How do we address the critical shortage of highly qualified bilingual teachers in Oregon?
Are there alternative pathways to certification that we should consider, at least for a pilot phase that could be evaluated after five years?
Is passing a standardized test in English an indispensible measure of teachers' content knowledge for Oregon? Should this be the cast for native speakers of other languages?
What can we learn from other states with large numbers of dual language programs and/or from states that now offer biliteracy seals about how they are meeting the increased need for highly literate bilingual teachers?
Let me suggest that you need to focus separately on short term (next five years) and long term solutions. Short term, there just are not the needed licensed teachers in the US, so more teachers will need to come from abroad and licensing regulations will need to be adjusted to make this easier. Long term, the solution is to produce more such teachers in Oregon. This will required substantial new efforts to get more of Oregon's bilingual students into teaching and into programs for them at our state universities..
Let me suggest that you invite to testify, among others, some or all of the following:
Rob Saxton, David Bautista and Martha Martinez from the Oregon Department of Education.
Debbie Armendariz, Michael Bacon (both DLI Department) and Sean Murray (Human Resources Director) from Portland Public Schools.
From Portland State University, Professor Meiru Liu (Director, Confucius Institute), Howard Yank (cohort leader of the graduate Mandarin teacher program), and Professor Esperanza de la Vega (program coordinator for the Bilingual Teacher Pathway Program).
Victoria Chamberlain (Director) and Keith Menk (Deputy Director) of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.
Dean Randy Kamphaus of the U of O College of Education, Dean Lawrence Flick of the OSU College of Education, Dean Randy Hitz of the PSU Graduate School of Education, Dean Geoff Mills of the Southern Oregon University School of Education, Dean Mark Girod of the Western Oregon College of Education, and Dean Donald Easton-Brooks of the Eastern Oregon University Colleges of Business and Education,
Thanks you for your consideration.
Sincerely - Dave Porter
PS: In 2013-14, 8.2% of Oregon kindergarteners were in dual language immersion programs. Only 0.2% were in Mandarin immersion programs, hardly a figure to inspire optimism about Oregon's economic future.
In 2013-14, there were eleven Oregon school districts with more than 1,000 Hispanic students each that did not have any Spanish immersion programs.
This is data I collected through phone and email contacts in 2014. Note that I did one tabulation without data from Salem Keizer's Literacy Squared program. It took more time to get their data and there was, and still is, concerned as to whether they should count. Literacy Squared is a transitional bilingual program in 17 of Salem Keizer's schools. The Spanish component phases out in elementary school, raising the issue of whether they should be counted along with programs that sustain efforts to develop bilingualism. I decided they were bilingual programs in kindergarten and I would count them.