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Recruiting and Retaining Bilingual and ESL Teachers

photo of a woman in a pink t-shirt in front of a black chalkboard with hello written in different languages

Many school districts face challenges in recruiting and retaining bilingual and ESL certified teachers. 

The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) continues to increase at a rapid rate in Texas, growing by more than 235,000 over the last ten years—an increase of more than 30 percent. Nearly 20 percent of Texas students are ELLs.

Bilingual Teachers

Meanwhile, the number of newly certified bilingual teachers has increased at a much slower rate, 13 percent compared to 10 years ago, and hasn’t kept pace with the growth in ELLs.

To help recruit and retain bilingual teachers, the number of districts paying a bilingual stipend is increasing slowly but consistently. The median annual bilingual stipend is $3,000, with 25 percent of districts paying at least $4,000.

Half of school districts across the state offer a bilingual teacher stipend. Paying a bilingual stipend is a standard practice at larger districts and much less prevalent at smaller ones. The 45 largest districts in the state with enrollment of least 20,000 students all pay a bilingual stipend. 

ESL Teachers

Many school districts are getting creative with their efforts to achieve compliance with ESL certification.

All content teachers of ELLs must be appropriately ESL certified. For districts using the pull-out model, those providing English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) instruction must be ESL certified, and if separate teachers divide the ELAR instruction, both teachers must meet the requirement.

Below are just a few of the ways districts are helping teachers become appropriately certified:

  • classifying absences used for certification exam as professional development
  • providing professional development to learn strategies and to pass the test
  • reimbursing teachers for cost of exam (if passed)
  • reimbursing teachers for cost to add exam to certification

For those who don’t meet requirements, districts may submit teachers on a waiver to TEA for one year, in which the district agrees to work towards compliance for that teacher during the year.

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