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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State grant to IU School of Education to fund place-based preparation of ESL teachers

Two-year program benefits East Chicago and South Bend schools

Jan. 27, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new Indiana University School of Education program that will develop more highly-trained teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) -- ESL Professional Communities for Expertise and Leadership Development -- has received $154,000 in funding from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

ESL Grant

Beth Samuelson, Faridah Pawan and Michelle Greene will help develop more highly-trained teachers of English as a Second Language.

The grant will focus on preparing minority ESL teachers in two high-need Indiana school corporations in East Chicago and South Bend through on-site workshops, graduate courses, summer institutes and a capstone project.

The need for ESL teachers statewide is acute following a quadrupling of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students in Indiana during the last decade, according to the Indiana Department of Education. South Bend and East Chicago have among the highest concentrations of such students; 11.4 percent of South Bend students and 12.4 percent of East Chicago students are LEP. The Indiana Department of Education noted the need for ESL teachers as one of its priorities in the just-submitted federal application for "Race to the Top" funds -- a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Faridah Pawan, associate professor of ESL/EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and literacy, culture and language education, and Beth Samuelson, assistant professor of literacy, culture and language education, will lead the project. Michelle Greene, an ESL teacher in Lawrence Township and a doctoral student in the IU School of Education, will assist. Joan Pong Linton, associate professor in the IU Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, will act as a consultant on the project.

"The type of work we'll be doing with these schools is relevant to the challenges that they face in their school system," Pawan said. The program is designed to meet the specific needs of ESL teachers in each corporation, focusing on continuing development in East Chicago but more on introductory ESL teaching in South Bend.

"In South Bend, they have plenty of experience working with ESL students, but they need some basic training that would eventually lead to ESL license certification," Samuelson said. "In East Chicago, there are some teachers who just finished their ESL certification through IU, and they're more interested in advanced things, like how do we assess our students appropriately?"

The program will focus on 11 teachers in each corporation for two years, establishing a cohort that will help teachers build upon each other's experiences, Greene said. "The idea is that they talk with their peers and in their department meetings, and that support spreads from within -- as opposed to this top-down type of model where the university has all the knowledge," she said. "These teachers have knowledge. They have a lot of experience and knowledge from daily life with these kids that they can share amongst each other. We can build knowledge together."

In total, participating teachers in each corporation each year will take four graduate courses on ESL instruction and language assessment in a mix of distance and on-site meetings, have four on-site workshops on leadership and coaching skills, attend a two-day summer workshop, then complete a capstone project. The coursework offered to the teachers is applicable toward state of Indiana ESL certification and a master's degree in literacy, culture, and language education.

"The professional development is customized, and it's done in collaboration with a school district," Samuelson said.

The program is designed to continue in the schools well after the two years are complete. "One of the outcomes is that you have those certified teachers becoming leaders," Pawan said. "That's why we're providing the leadership types of coursework as well as workshops so that they can move on to become mentors and coaches."

The new program continues the IU School of Education's response to the need for ESL teachers. Pawan oversaw the Tandem Certification of Indiana Teachers partnership funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant, which advanced the work of the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Program, another federally funded program aimed at supporting Indiana teachers working with ESL students.

In addition to this new program, nearly $1.5-million U.S. Department of Education grant is funding a partnership between the IU School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Public Schools to better prepare ESL teachers before they begin their careers, develop skills of current teachers and revise methods of IU faculty.