Paper Calls for Increase in Bilingual Teachers

Education: Statewide association urges colleges and universities to launch a joint effort to help end the "critical shortage."

ANAHEIM—Noting the soaring rate of students with limited English proficiency, the California Assn. for Bilingual Education will ask colleges and universities to launch a collaborative effort to end the “critical shortage” of bilingual teachers.

A position paper prepared for the association’s 16th annual conference that began Wednesday says that more than 20,000 new language teachers must be trained in the next five years to cope with the expected number of students who speak little or no English.

With the state already short 12,000 bilingual teachers, “the predictable failure of several hundred thousand of our current . . . students and the approaching disaster for the 1.5 million” more expected by the year 2005, “for their families and for all of California cannot be overstated,” the paper says.

About 5,000 teachers, college professors, administrators, school board members and parents began gathering at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers for the four-day conference. At today’s session, 20 college and university deans will meet with representatives of the bilingual association to discuss the proposal, which includes:

* Expanding university education departments to train more teachers to work with students with limited English.

* Recruiting more bilingual teacher candidates.

* Strengthening community support to help student teachers finish their studies.

* Training all teachers in cultural sensitivity and some proficiency in other languages.

The position paper notes that while colleges and universities have significantly increased bilingual and English language courses for teachers in recent years, they have not kept up with demand.

Currently, there are 862,000 students, or 18% of the total student population, in kindergarten through 12th grade statewide with limited English, a 30% increase in the past two years, according to the report. Meanwhile, the number of bilingual teachers statewide remained constant at about 8,000 between 1984 and 1989.

“The population of teachers prepared to teach (those) students has not kept pace with the growth,” the report says. “Only about 40% of the students who need academic instruction in the primary language are now receiving it from qualified teachers.”

The bilingual experts who prepared the report estimate that 15,022 Spanish-speaking teachers are needed to instruct the 655,000 Latino students, but only 7,361 are available. The situation is even more grim for a number of Asian languages — according to the report: the state needs 467 teachers who speak Cambodian, but there is only one full-time, Cambodian-speaking teacher in the state.

In Orange County, the number of bilingual teachers is also woefully inadequate. According to the state Department of Education’s Bilingual Education Office, there are 368 teachers to serve 79,882 bilingual students.

Almost half of those teachers work for the heavily Latino Santa Ana Unified School District. Two districts, Magnolia and Cypress, have no bilingual teachers, and three others — Buena Park, Fountain Valley and Centralia — each employ one full-time bilingual teacher. The Brea-Olinda Unified, Huntington Beach City, Huntington Beach Union High School and Savanna districts each have two bilingual teachers.

But while the number of bilingual teachers remains abysmally low, the report notes that there is a vast pool of bilingual paraprofessionals and students who can be trained to become bilingual teachers in the next five years. For example, more than 21,000 Spanish-speaking paraprofessionals now work in public schools.

The conference, which will include about 300 workshops on bilingual issues, will feature speeches by Rita Esquivel, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs, State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig, and Paulo Freire, secretary of education for Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Times researcher April Jackson contributed to this report.


More than 47 languages are spoken by students attending Orange County schools, many of whom have limited English proficiency. Their numbers have risen in the past five years, and the trend is expected to continue. Listed are the

number of county students enrolled in Limited English Proficiency programs. Period Number Spring, 1990 79,882 Spring, 1989 64,544 Spring, 1988 55,159 Spring, 1987 49,928 Spring, 1986 47,528

Comments are closed.