NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shortage Of Language Teachers For Immigrant Students

August 6, 2002

Immigrants who do not speak English and who settle in rural areas of the U.S. may be at a disadvantage when it comes to learning English, authorities report. That is because there is a severe shortage of people qualified to teach English outside of traditional urban immigration hubs.

  • The number of students with limited English skills, most of them Hispanics, has doubled to five million in the last decade.
  • The population of English deficient students has grown more than four times as fast as the general student population.
  • The number of qualified teachers for bilingual or English-as-a-second-language classes -- already in short supply -- has not kept pace, and there is only one such teacher for every 100 students with limited English skills.
  • If students with limited English skills were taught in classes of about 17 pupils per teacher, up to 290,000 of them would be needed for them, experts estimate.

The need is greatest in school districts in the South, Midwest and Northwest.

Populations of students with limited English skills have at least tripled in Idaho, Nebraska, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia since 1993.

School districts are experimenting with a variety of incentives to attract scarce English-language teachers. Even so, applicants for such positions in rural settings rarely number over one or two -- whereas there might be 100 or more applications from teachers in other subjects.

Source: Yilu Zhao, "Wave of Pupils Lacking English Strains Schools," New York Times, August 5, 2002.

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