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Teacher Education Special Interest Group News:

The Annual SIG Meetings and First Annual Graduate Student Forum

By Gail Verdi

A s the Teacher Education Special Interest Group representative, I want to thank all of the faculty, teachers, and student leaders that participated in the events that our SIG hosted during NJTESOL/NJBE’s 2011 Spring Conference, “Creating Global Learning Communities for ELLs.” 

Teacher Education Special Interest Group Meetings

The TE SIG also hosted a few presentations.  On Tuesday, Miriam Eisenstein Ebsworth (NYU), Anthony Pittman (Kean), and Timothy Ebsworth (CNR) responded to the documentary “Waiting for Superman” by Davis Guggenheim on behalf of English Learners who speak English as a Second Language and Standard English as a Second Dialect.  Drs. Eisenstein Ebsworth, Pittman, and Ebsworth focused on the “myths” or “assertions” laid out by Guggenheim concerning what we need to provide a good education:

  1. Money doesn’t solve all the problems American schools face.
  2. America is an under-educated superpower.
  3. There are too many bad teachers in the system, and it is impossible to get rid of them because of tenure.
  4. Charter schools are better than public schools
  5. Tracking kids is unfair – especially when it is based on arbitrary factors like neatness, obedience, politeness, and,  of course, lack of language skills.


The panel and audience deconstructed Guggenheim’s assertions and responded to them by noting the following:

  1. We need money to hire well-trained bilingual, ESL, and [mainstream] teachers trained to work with struggling native English speakers.  We need money to lower class size. We need money to provide professional development for mainstream teachers working with native and non-native speakers of English with special needs (Cultural/Social Pragmatics, Sheltered Instruction, Integrated Units including Essential Questions).
  2. America is not under-educated when you consider poverty.  Poverty for both native and non-native students is the most significant variable when considering school success. 
  3. Teachers accused of incompetence have the right to a hearing according to due process.  The real question here is how are these teachers assessed.  For teachers of English learners, test scores cannot determine how effective a bilingual, ESL or mainstream teacher is unless we consider how students improve over time.
  4. Charter schools are not better than public schools.  A quality education should not be the outcome of a lottery.  We all know that there are great public schools.  Statistics show that English language learners, given the proper support, can help produce test scores that raise the levels of Annual Yearly Progress. 
  5. Tracking is complicated.  Placing students in classrooms with appropriate supports systems can help move students towards proficiency of both language and content.  However, placing students in classrooms where they don’t receive the support they need will continue to fail.  For English learners this often happens when they exit bilingual or ESL classes.  They continue to need support (Sheltered Instruction) and scaffolding to help them develop academic language and content skills necessary to succeed. 


On Wednesday, our Teacher Education Special Interest Group hosted another session to continue our exploration of the theme of Superheroes in L2 Education. During this session faculty from Rutgers, Kean, and Stockton College revisited David Guggenheim’s assertions listed above and add some additional insights:

  1. Unions are not against innovations, they are against bad ideas from people who are not teachers.
  2. Taking poverty into consideration when discussing the notion that America is under-educated, we must also consider the cultural capital students from middle-class families bring with them when they enter the classroom. If you come from a family that is born in this country, and have acquired the cultural capital that enables you to understand how the system works, you are more likely to succeed. 
  3. When discussing the assertion that we keep bad teachers because of tenure, we need to also consider how school leaders (principals) impact teacher success.  What can school leaders do to ensure that teachers are effective and the students are learning?  Similarly teacher education programs have to assess whether we are training mainstream teachers to work with diverse student populations. 
  4. The participants in this discussion also made some recommendations for future collaboration:
    1. Consider becoming involved in the International Language Teacher Conference being held in Washington, D.C.
    2. Review and become more familiar with TE Programs across the state.
    3. Work on the ESL Policy Statement from the Teacher Education standpoint.
    4. Work on the Graduate Student Forum for the 2012 NJTESOL/NJBE Annual Conference.

Sorrentino, J. (2011, May).  Waiting for Superman: What it means for you and your child. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/print/waiting-superman-means-parents/.

Weber, K. (Ed.).  (2010). Waiting for Superman: How we can save America’s failing schools.  New York, New York: Public Affairs.

The First Annual Graduate Student Forum

This event was well attended by faculty and graduate students from Kean, Rowan, Rutgers, and Stockton Universities.  Students at both the Master’s and Doctoral levels presented the results of their research.  Students still working on their research indicated that being able to observer their peers present their work helped them in two ways.  First, they were able to get a sense of how a research study is organized and how to collect and analyze different forms of data.  They were also able to see how to present research.  All of the graduate students in attendance as audience members indicated that they look forward to participating in this event when they complete their studies. 

For our inaugural event, we had two graduate students from Rowan University, Marybeth Hegel and Jennifer Murphy, who discussed a co-authored project they are working on titled: Embracing Technology in the ESL Classroom: Creating engaging and challenging standards-based ESL lessons using multiple technologies.  We also had Sandra Nahmias, a graduate student in Kean’s TESOL Program, who presented the results of her thesis: Derivational Morphology as an Instructional Tool to Enhance the Depth and Increase the Breadth of Vocabulary Knowledge in Third Grade English Language Learners, and Sonia Nobre, a student in the Bilingual Education Program at Kean discussed: The Effects of Teaching Math Content to ELLs Using Technology.  We were also fortunate to have our first doctoral candidate form Rutgers University, Sora Suh.  Sora’s study focused on The Social Functions of Code-switching in a Korean family.

For the graduate students that presented, this was a celebration of their scholarship and an acknowledgement of the hard work they put into their research projects.  What was even more impressive was that faculty were present to provide productive feedback as critical friends and supporters.  All of the participants indicated that they walked away from this event feeling as if they had something important to say about teaching English learners.  I think we all agreed that these studies will add to the field of second language acquisition research.  We want to recognize the graduate students that presented their research and thank them for taking part in NJTESOL/NJBE’s First Annual Graduate Student Forum.  We also hope that faculty will continue to encourage graduate students to participate. 

Gail Verdi is the Teacher Education SIG Representative.  You can contact her at gverdi@njtesolnjbe.org or at 908-737-3908 if you have a program or an initiative you would like me to feature in Voices.