Districts Struggle To Find ESL Teachers

School districts are struggling to find teachers for English language learners, according to a new report from the New York State School Boards Association.

A NYSSBA survey found that 52 percent of school superintendents with non-native English speakers in their schools reported having difficulty over the past year recruiting and hiring teachers specifically trained to instruct those students.

One in five superintendents reported having a shortage of such teachers in the 2018-19 school year.

“The lack of teachers for ELL students presents a serious challenge for school boards, since school districts in New York are required to provide English as a New Language (ENL) instruction to any student whose primary language is not English,” said Timothy G. Kremer, NYSSBA executive director.

The difficulty in finding qualified ENL teachers coincides with an increase of ELL students across the state. According to data from the state Education Department, the number of English language learner students in New York whose primary language is not English grew by 11 percent from 2011-12 to 2017-18. Outside of New York City, the increase was 44 percent.

The report points to changes in state ENL regulations, which now require all English language learners to receive ENL instruction as part of other core educational courses, as contributing to the shortage of qualified ENL teachers.

The report suggests that school districts offer incentives for teachers to earn additional state certificates, which could enable schools to hire and reward teachers for dual-certification, and then assign these teachers to multiple roles.

“School districts will need to find creative solutions to meet the need for qualified ENL teachers,” said Kremer.