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Illinois schools are also serving a growing number of students who come from immigrant families, speak a range of English and native language proficiency, and/or whose families may be unfamiliar with how to navigate U.S. schools.

This is no longer a marginal niche educational concern as Illinois data reveals that close to one of every four public school children speak a language other than English in the home (22 percent), many of them at one point identify as an English Language Learner (ELL).  As these students transition into mainstream classrooms, nearly every teacher in the state will likely be working with them at some point in their careers.

Given rapidly changing demographics in classrooms across Illinois, all teachers should receive quality preparation and ongoing professional development on how to value and integrate students’ cultural background and native language—even if the teacher does not speak the student’s native language.  This implies that both pre-service and in-service general teacher preparation programs —early childhood, elementary, middle school, secondary, special education—should be prepared and/or given appropriate professional development opportunities to deliver the knowledge and skills to effectively work with every child present in classrooms today.

The Latino Policy Forum has initiated a work group to develop a comprehensive state-wide framework to prepare all Illinois teachers to educate ELLs.  The outcome of this work includes a report that provides a synthesis of pertinent research, overview of policy issues and concerns, and future directions.  The work aims to advance collective dialogues on ELLs and teacher preparation (both pre- and in-service) in the region.

Resources related to our K-3 work are available below. Check out our "Shaping Our Future" report and online appendices. For additional information, contact Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro.

Photo: JayDunn.com-Universidad Popular