Language and Culture
Career Ladder Teacher-Training Program
Jorge P. Osterling, Ph.D.
Sherry L. Steeley, M.A.
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA
Annual VAME Conference
October 4, 2003
Caminante son tus huellas
el camino y nada más
caminante no hay camino
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en el mar.
Antonio Machado
Bilingual Paraeducator
Career Ladder Teacher Training Program
Today’s Objective
To present preliminary research findings
on addressing the academic needs of nonnative English speaking bilingual
paraeducators enrolled in a teacher
education program.
What is BIPACAL?
BIPACAL is a federally-funded
IHE-LEA career ladder partnership
which trains bilingual paraeducators
as “highly qualified” ESOL teachers.
Project Goals
Provide local schools divisions with culturally and
linguistically diverse teachers to improve the
achievement, language, and cultural skills of all
Support non-traditional, part-time, adult IHE
students in overcoming institutional, linguistic, and
cultural barriers to their achievement.
Why train bilingual paraeducators
to become teachers?
Currently, nearly 90 percent of the
teachers in U.S. schools are of white,
middle class background;
Over 500,000 linguistically and culturally
diverse bilingual paraeducators with
higher educational background work in
American schools.
Research shows that paraeducator motivation
to teach increases in proportion to their length
of service in schools
(Genzuk & Baca, 1998; Osterling & Buchanan 2003).
Virginia ELL …
In 2002 nearly 50,000 English language
learners (ELL) received ESOL services;
ELL students spoke over 120 different world
languages from Afrikaans to Zulu.
Spanish is the first language of 29,822 of
ELL students; followed by Korean, 2,596
students; Vietnamese, 1,994 students; and
Arabic, 1741 students.
In Northern Virginia…
The ELL student population in BIPACAL’s three
suburban Virginia school divisions is over 31,000.
In Arlington, 41% of the student population is from
language minority backgrounds [4,988 ESOL];
In Fairfax, 22% [20,974 ESOL];
In Prince William, 6%, a low but significant
increase in just three years [5,523 ESOL].
In Fairfax County, the number non-White students
has risen to 74,588 (46 percent of 162,585
BIPACAL Student Voices
"I always wanted to become a teacher, but never
had the time or the money. NVCC and GMU faculty
know their subjects and understand non-traditional
students … they understand students who are
juggling families and jobs, and they are very willing
to work with you if you need extra time or tutoring.
They are very accommodating.”
BIPACAL’s Commitment:
Train Highly Qualified Teachers
BIPACAL provides high quality professional
development to all future PK-12 teachers.
Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act of
2001 requires school divisions serving
limited English proficient students (LEP) to
certify that all their teachers working in
language instruction educational programs
for LEP students are fluent in English and
any other language used by the program,
including written and oral communication
skills. (PL 107-110, 2002 -- Title III section 3116).
Highly Qualified Teacher
By the end of the 2005-06 school year, all public
school teachers will have to be "highly qualified:“
Have obtained full state certification or passed the state teacher licensing
hold a license to teach in the state; and
not have had a certificate or license requirement waived under emergency,
temporary or provisional conditions.
Paraprofessionals who have instructional duties
must have two years' of college or pass a rigorous
state competency examination by January 2006.
Boosting the Paraeducators’ academic
English from the 'intermediate plateau'
towards an 'advanced level.'
Prepare them for the TOEFL, PRAXIS-I
tests, and professional daily use.
BIPACAL’s Approach
Realizing the importance of reaching a high level
of English proficiency before students can teach
English as a second language, the BIPACAL
program initially focused on proficiency skills of
all its participants.
Initial Assessment:
TOEFL Scores
TOEFL scores ranged from a low 430 –elementary proficiency level
-- to a high 660 – advanced professional proficiency level four.
The majority of the paraeducators tested operated in the Level 1 to
Level 2/2+ range.
Initial results revealed an unacceptable low average score of 555.
A minimum 570 score –which reflects a 2+ limited working
proficiency plus level-- is usually required for undergraduate
admission and a 600 score –which, reflects the lower end of a 3
general professional proficiency level, is required to work as a
graduate assistant.
The Academic-English Question:
Which would be the best way to work with
these fully-employed/ busy adult students
to help them:
Expand their English vocabulary,
Increase their knowledge of the grammatical
structures of the English language, and
Perfect their writing and reading skills
Is there such a way that they could
eventually become highly qualified ESL/ FL
teachers in the United States?
Theoretical Relevance
The field of teaching academic-English as
a Second Language to professional adults
is growing steadily in both scope and
As academic English language instruction
to adult learners is increasing, particularly
career switchers or reentry students -- so
is the knowledge of applied linguistics,
second language acquisition and effective
teaching approaches and methods.
Reaching ACTFL
Superior Proficiency Level
We posit that the academic English level of all
future or current non-native English speaking
fully-certified ESL teachers working in American
public schools must be, using the ACTFL
Proficiency Guidelines, at a “low” superior level
[í.e., General professional proficiency].
ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines
Revised 2001
First published in 1986, the ACTFL Proficiency
Guidelines are global characterizations of
integrated performance in each of the four
language skills -- speaking, writing, reading, and
The ACTFL Guidelines are based on the
language skill-level descriptors used by the
Interagency Language Roundtable and are
adapted for use in academic environments.
ACTFL Language Skill Level
Skill Level
Listening Reading
Levels are subdivided into low, mid, and high.
Language Education Component
Necessary time to learn (CALP-level) a foreign language
and progress from:
Level "low advanced" to “high advanced" :: 1.5 - 2 years.
Level “high advanced" to "low superior" an additional year.
Transfer issues: "semantic feedback" [e.g., content-form
issues; body-language issues].
On-going literacy development and resynthesis issues
(entire range of constructs must be “reassembled”).
Language support
Virginia - standards for “highly qualified
teachers” were a source of great
concern to participants.
Extensive academic language support
and test preparation mitigated this
perceived obstacle: from BICS to CALP
Changes to Initial Program
BIPACAL’s initial component:
Clearly much more training in academic
English skills (i.e., CALP level) and
mathematics was required for many of these
adult learners
To become fluent in academic English, both spoken and
written, and
To pass the State required PRAXIS-I professional
assessment in reading, writing, and mathematics skills for
beginning teachers.
Modification to Original Design
BIPACAL’s initial component:
Redesign after the first year:
New components
(1) Teacher Education
(2.1) Language Training -- Level 0 - Level two
(2.2) Language education -- Level 2+ to Lower Three
(3) School divisions’ commitment to release training/
education time.
English Language
Academic Support
English Language Institute (Workshops or
individual courses)
English Writing Center (Special arrangement for
dedicated staff person)
ENGL 302: Advanced Composition (Adapted for
bilingual adult learners)
Praxis-I Preparation Workshop (48 hours of
essay, grammar, reading skills and strategies).
Extensive background knowledge and high
motivation of participants accelerated the
process of moving from low to high levels
of proficiency.
Group collaborative structures further
reinforced progress.
Academic English support programs
helped achieve meaningful results.
In fact…
While some candidates entered with low TOEFL
scores, the majority have improved their
language skills to a degree sufficient to enable
them to meet state-mandated PRAXIS I target
scores, a significant accomplishment in light of
what researchers denote as cultural and
linguistic bias of such standardized instruments
(e.g., Flores & Clark, 1997).
Ongoing advisory, counseling, and
support service
In order to assist participants in managing stress,
balancing work, family, and academic demands,
BIPACAL provides cross cultural counseling services to
all participants.
This is available for the duration of the program.
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