Educators in dual-language immersion programs across the United States are calling on the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to improve language access on the company’s Praxis teacher-certification exam.
Currently, the Praxis test is available in languages other than English only for teachers who will be teaching a foreign language as part of an individual course. However, teachers in dual-language immersion programs must complete the Praxis test in English, despite the fact that English will not be the primary language of instruction for many teachers. According to a report from local NPR affiliate KCUR, school administrators and educators in states like Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas are calling on ETS to make the test more accessible to speakers of other languages.
“We don’t have a lot of diversity. It’s hard to find teachers, and especially because of our criteria for teachers,” Rebecca Gomez, the director of an Iowa-based Spanish immersion program, told KCUR.
The Praxis only offers language accommodations for teachers who will teach a language as a subject. For dual-language immersion programs, teachers will teach multiple subjects in the target language and must take the exam in English. Teachers can request extended time accommodations if their native language is not English, but they would still be required to take the test in English.
States commonly allow nonimmigrant teachers to work in immersion schools without local credentials. However, according to KCUR, these teachers can only stay in the country temporarily, making it difficult for immersion schools in less linguistically diverse states to find teachers to work long term. The Praxis test acts as the main certification exam for teachers, but because it’s only offered in English, it can be difficult for teachers to find a path toward permanent employment in U.S. immersion schools if they are not fluent in or comfortable working in English.
“We want these teachers to stick around because we’ve invested in their immigration process, we invested in giving them this professional development, and just the fact of how much I work with them to help them grow,” Gomez told KCUR.
In addition to promoting multilingualism among their students, dual-language immersion schools are also a particularly important resource for students and families whose primary language is not English. However, if immersion schools struggle to hire permanent staff, it can impede the school’s ability to succeed in their mission.