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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
812-856-8027

Last modified: Wednesday, June 20, 2007

IU School of Education celebrates certification of new ESL teachers

More teachers getting trained, but more to be done

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's School of Education will celebrate the achievements of 17 newly-certified teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) next week when it hosts the Tandem Certification of Indiana Teachers (TACIT) summer retreat on June 26-27 (Tuesday and Wednesday). But administrators say that there still are not enough teachers to meet an increasing demand.

The 17 teachers come from across Indiana and are concluding the latest 2006-2007 TACIT program, a federally-funded, five-semester program leading to Indiana certification as a teacher of English as a Second Language. The program teams with Indiana school corporations that have significant populations of ESL students.

As debate continues regarding potential funding for ESL programs, the director of TACIT says the need is clear.

"Our average is one ESL teacher to 60 English Language Learners (ELLs)," said Faridah Pawan, also an assistant professor in language education at IU. "Nationally, there are fewer than 6 percent of teachers who work with language-learners who have had training in ESL. So the shortage of ESL-qualified teachers is quite dramatic overall."

The proposed immigration reform bill now in Congress would require English proficiency for immigrants seeking to become citizens. That would strain an already taxed system both within and outside school corporations. U.S. Department of Education statistics indicate that the enrollment of "limited English proficient" (LEP) students in Indiana quadrupled from 1995 to 2005, from just over 6,000 to 35,816. LEP students need immediate assistance in English language.

IU's School of Education began the TACIT partnership three years ago to address the shortage of ESL teachers. TACIT continues the work of the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Program (ICP), another federally funded program under Pawan's direction aimed at supporting Indiana teachers working with ELLs.

In the ICP, in-service teachers across content-areas are funded to take three courses to develop collaborative curricula for students to learn subject matter as well as English. ICP courses form the pre-requisite courses for participants to complete TACIT, and jointly both programs have involved more than 200 teachers in Indiana in ESL training.

Pawan said the ICP and TACIT courses are designed so that teachers can learn while staying in their own schools.

"We don't remove teachers from their classrooms, but we go to them through on-site workshops, which are conducted in conjunction with online classes," Pawan said. "We try to support them as much as possible where they are, so that their training is really grounded in their experience."

Pawan says many school corporations sense the urgency of increasing the numbers of ELL instructors. She also said the programs are making a difference.

"When I first started, we had 379 certified ESL teachers," Pawan said. "Now there are over 500. Although the state needs approximately 400 additional ESL-certified teachers to meet the state-recommended ratio of one teacher per 30 students, the programs are contributing to the increase in the numbers of high qualified teachers of ELL students."

Still, there is a limit to how many teachers TACIT can reach. The federal grant only allows a maximum of 17 teachers to enroll each year. Pawan said the program is full until 2009, reflecting a serious need for all teachers to be trained in the area.

TACIT teachers will receive their certificates during the Tuesday program and hear from experts on the latest in ESL-teaching research during several seminars.

Media Outlets: the following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://education.indiana.edu/audio.html.

Pawan says the TACIT program is designed to help teachers train while still in their own schools:

"The program is primarily online, but it's unique in a sense that it's online -- blended online. There are so many ways that we work with them. It's blended in the sense that it's both online with on-site workshops and interactive video. And so we do all that. We don't remove teachers from their classrooms, but we go to them through the on-site workshops, and we offer the classes online. So we try to support them as much as possible where they are, so that their training is really grounded in their experience."

Pawan says the TACIT program and its prerequisite Interdisciplinary Collaborative Program came about to address the state's shortage of ESL instructors:

"The reason for both of these programs is that we have so few certified teachers in the state of Indiana. When I first started, we had 336 certified ESL teachers to about 33,000-some LEP students -- limited English students. Now it's 53,000-some LEP students, but there are 400-some certified ESL teachers as well at the same time. So the programs are really contributing to the numbers of ESL-certified teachers."

Statistics across the country and in Indiana point to the problem, Pawan says:

"Our average is one ESL teacher to 60 students. Nationally, there are fewer than 6 percent of teachers who work with language-learners who have had training in ESL. So the situation's quite dire, actually, overall."

Numbers vary, but Pawan says all studies indicate the state of Indiana has a high percentage of ESL students:

"Well, it depends on who you talk to, but I think Indiana is pretty typical of our Midwestern neighbors in the sense that there's an 88 percent increase in terms of the percentage of LEP students in our school systems. And so I think, we're trying to -- we're like -- again, depending on which statistics you look at -- some I've looked at have said we're among the top four in terms of percentage increase, and others have said we're like number thirteen overall."