Advocacy for English Learners: Teacher Candidates Learn Advocacy for Policy Change

Advocacy for English Learners: Teacher Candidates Learn Advocacy for Policy Change

Debra A. Giambo (Florida Gulf Coast University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2906-4.ch006
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There is a growing need for teachers to be advocates for their English learners (ELs). Teacher preparation programs often do not develop teacher candidates' advocacy skills effectively, and this chapter begins with an outline of the need for developing the advocacy skills of teacher candidates. Activities to promote the development of teacher candidates' skills to advocate for policy change for ELs are described both at scaffolded levels of preparation and within the context of an undergraduate teacher education program. These activities are organized in the program to reflect both the teacher candidates' developing abilities to analyze and synthesize information related to policy as well as, for some assignments, the political election cycle. As part of these activities, teacher candidates engage in self-reflection as well as in-class, whole group reflection, and these processes are described along with a presentation of themed student reflective responses in regard to the advocacy activities.
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The percentage of English learners (ELs) in public schools in the U.S.A. has been growing while the achievement gap between ELs and non-ELs remains consistent. As of 2013-14, ELs compose 9.3% (4.5 million) of students in public schools in the U.S.A., and, in California, the percentage is 22.7%. Six states (i.e., Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas) and Washington, D.C., schools have 10% or more ELs, and 17 states (i.e., Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington) have 6 to 9.9% of ELs (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016). However, the achievement gap in 4th and 8th grade reading and mathematics between ELs and non-ELs remained consistent between 1998 and 2013 (United States Department of Education, 2013). Results of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress indicate that, while 38% of 4th and 8th grade non-ELs scored at or above proficient in reading, only 8% of ELs scored at or above proficient (United States Department of Education, 2015).

When educational policies do not favor EL success, change could happen when educators communicate with school and district administrators, politicians, and policymakers to advocate effectively on behalf of their EL students. Undergraduate teacher candidates often express that they had not considered that politicians are most often not educators and that they need to hear educators’ voices to be informed of the educational needs of students, families, and teachers. However, educators most often do not learn to advocate effectively on behalf of their ELs in their teacher preparation programs (Athanases & de Oliveira, 2007; Dever, 2006; Lievobich & Matoba Adler, 2009; Mahwinney, Rinke, & Park, 2012). In this chapter, activities intended to develop teacher candidates’ advocacy skills, within the larger context of the growing recognition of the need for teachers to become advocates for their ELs, are presented and described. Because the teacher candidates included in this chapter are undergraduate students, they most often do not choose to advocate at the school or district levels, since they are not employed yet as teachers in a school, and they may be concerned about being considered for local employment. Themes and examples from teacher candidate reflections on the experiences are also provided. While the focus here is on ELs, much of the content is inclusive of the needs of other vulnerable students as well.

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