Tag Archives: Felicia Butts

Lessons from Chicago Public Schools on Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners

Chicago Public Schools serves over 360,000 students, 18.7% of whom are English language learners (ELL). The Spanish-speaking student population, in particular, makes up about 35% of the total student population. I spoke with Felicia Butts, Director of Teacher Residencies at Chicago Public Schools, about their growing bilingual teacher residency program.

headshot for Felicia Butts, Chicago Public Schools

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Could you tell us about Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) residency programs focused on preparing educators to work in bilingual classrooms?

The bilingual residency program provides an accelerated two-year master’s degree in which graduates receive a master’s degree, professional educator’s license, and an endorsement in bilingual education and English as a Second Language (ESL). We have two bilingual residency program tracks: one focused on early childhood education and the other focused on elementary education. Our residents undergo a suite of carefully curated professional development modules that include support from the Office of Language and Cultural Education. Residents receive support in teaching in bilingual and dual-language classrooms while working in specific grade bands. They also receive professional development in cultural competence and social emotional learning.

During the first year, residents are matched with carefully vetted mentors and placed in training sites. We facilitate a matching process where [incoming residents] get to choose who would be the best fit for them to work with. Teacher residents spend a full year in the training site side by side with the mentor teacher to get training and support, guidance, and coaching. During this first year, residents work in a full-time position where they receive a $35K salary with benefits. In the second year, residents are hired as teachers of record in their own classroom, earning a full teacher’s salary, while they work on the bilingual and ESL endorsement.

How many teacher candidates did you serve last year, and do you hope to see the program grow?

Last year we had 11 bilingual elementary residents. This year, we have 21 bilingual elementary residents, and nine early childhood bilingual residents. We recently opened up our recruitment cycle and are hoping to grow. Our recruiting targets are 25 for each of the program tracks for the 2020-2021 cohort. (The overall size of the residency program, which includes special education and STEM teachers, is 90 people this year.)

For the early childhood education cohort, we have to do significant outreach. The interest is there, but there are many systemic barriers for candidates to overcome, including culturally and linguistically limited tests such as the ACT, TAP, and SAT. Recently, the governor provided some reprieve, eliminating these tests as program entry requirements. We’re looking forward to being able to get candidates enrolled with fewer barriers.

Which languages do you currently serve?

We are currently serving Spanish, the most commonly spoken home language in CPS other than English. We’re hoping to expand to the top five most spoken languages in Chicago: Arabic, Urdu, Cantonese, and Polish. In order to train a group of teachers bilingually in one of the other top four languages, it would require a classroom with that language as a main mode of instruction. With the cohort model being a critical part of our residency program, it would be challenging for a resident to be in a program with predominantly Spanish language speakers. Continue reading