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Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Advocate for English language learners and immigrant rights headlines School of Education program

Keynote highlight of annual retreat for teachers of English as a Second Language

June 25, 2008

A national advocate of immigrant and English as a Second Language students -- who says everyone can do better for the English as a Second Language (ESL) population in U.S. schools -- will address an Indiana University group completing certification for ESL teaching.

Roger Rosenthal

Roger Rosenthal

Roger Rosenthal, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Migrant Legal Action Program Inc., will address the annual Tandem Certification of Indiana Teachers (TACIT) summer retreat in Bloomington on Friday, June 27.

For more than 22 years at the Migrant Legal Action Program, Rosenthal has worked extensively on public school access and social services for immigrants and English language learners. He'll speak to the latest class of graduates and others who work with the TACIT program, a five-semester program leading to Indiana certification as a teacher of English as a Second Language. The program, funded for five years by the federal government, teams with Indiana school corporations that have significant populations of ESL students.

Rosenthal cites a 2006 study by the Migration Policy Institute to emphasize how Indiana, like many other states, is seeing a massive shift in its demographics. Between 1994 and 2004, "Indiana showed a 438 percent increase in the English language learner population," he said. "That presents issues for the public schools. It presents opportunities as well as challenges." Rosenthal also notes that most English language learners are not immigrants. "Eighty percent of elementary school children who are English language learners are actually U.S. citizens," he said. "It's a myth that most are non-citizens.

During his presentation, Rosenthal will take questions from the teachers, but will also address what he said should be a major point of emphasis throughout school districts experiencing major student demographic changes. He said that the greatest problems come from school administrators, teachers and other personnel who don't understand the law.

"How do you make sure that you don't have school secretaries denying access to a child because they don't have a birth certificate because it's in their home country?" Rosenthal said. (Children can be enrolled in Indiana schools without a birth certificate). "I think people can do a much better job for this population and also assist their local districts in understanding how to fulfill those legal obligations."

Faridah Pawan, the director of IU's TACIT program, said understanding of such legal nuances is increasingly important. "One of the things that remains largely unknown generally is that a substantial portion of English as a Second or New Language teachers work is student advocacy," said Pawan, also an assistant professor of Language Education at the IU School of Education. "Understanding the legal rights surrounding the education of these students would enable the teachers to undertake the advocacy effectively and influentially."

Teachers who complete the TACIT course spend nine hours on coursework that incorporates aspects of legal issues, study the issues at retreats,and are provided opportunities to work closely with officers from the Indiana Department of Education who update them with the latest rules and regulations.

Despite what he said are significant problems with the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law in 2002, Rosenthal said the federal law has helped raise awareness of legal issues surrounding ESL students. "The core concept of accountability has improved the playing field for them," Rosenthal said, "because it is harder to do what some districts used to do and just not pay enough attention to them."

On Friday, Rosenthal said he will try to promote more awareness to ensure that educators are thinking of such issues before they arise. "The bottom line is that, No. 1, we properly educate all of these children -- but also make sure that your district doesn't waste resources that are so precious these days in defending actions which violate the law," he said.

The IU School of Education began the TACIT partnership four 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 ESL students.

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. Although federal funding for TACIT runs out after next year, Pawan said the waiting list for teacher participants stretches over the next three years.

Limited space is available for members of the IU community to attend three free workshops that are part of the retreat, including Rosenthal's address, on Thursday and Friday:


"Sheltered" Instruction for English Language Learners: Interweaving language and content instruction in the curriculum. (Practical and hands-on teaching workshop)

Presenter: Kathy Deckard, Indiana University & Monroe County Community School Corp.

Room: Education 2277 (Alumni Room)

Time: 1 p.m.-3 p.m.


The Rights of Immigrant Students and English Language Learners in the Indiana Public Schools

Presenter: Roger Rosenthal, executive director of the Migrant Legal Action Program (MLAP), Washington, D.C.

Room: State Room East/West, Indiana Memorial Union

Time: 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.

Language Learning Strategies for Diverse Learners

Presenter: Martha Nyikos, Language Education, Indiana University

Room: State Room East/West, IMU

Time: 3:15 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

If you plan to attend any of these sessions, please RSVP to