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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Resources, understanding, and inclusiveness are needed for Latino students in Indiana

New CEEP special report outlines issues, recommendations

August 28, 2007

Media Outlets: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at Look for the story headline under "Podcasts." A transcript of these mp3 files can be viewed here:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Despite well-intentioned efforts and a recent influx of funding from the Indiana General Assembly, more resources and different tactics are needed to address the huge growth in the number of Latino limited-English-proficiency students in the state, according to Indiana University researchers.

That's the conclusion of a special report from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University. The report, "Latino Language Minority Students in Indiana: Trends, Conditions, and Challenges," concludes that schools and communities tend to segregate and marginalize Latino students and other English language learners. While many schools may devote most resources and time to technical mastery of English, the report states more time should be focused on better training for staff and broader literacy development for students.

Indiana has one of the fastest-growing populations of English language learners (ELLs). According to the U.S. Department of Education, ELL enrollment in the state grew 408 percent between the school years of 1994-95 and 2005-06, third-fastest among all states. ELL students have struggled to meet expectations. Ninth-grade ELL students averaged a 67 percent passing rate, and 10th-grade ELL students had a 66 percent passing rate on the English/Language Arts portion of the 2006 ISTEP assessment exam.

A report co-author summed up part of the problem by noting her experience working with some Indiana schools as a school psychologist to evaluate ELL students. Rebecca Martinez, assistant professor of counseling and educational psychology in the Indiana University School of Education, said school administrators and teachers always asked if the student was developmentally disabled.

"And every single time it's been a matter not of evaluating or ruling out cognitive impairment, but of educating the staff," Martinez said.

The number of state-certified English as second language (ESL) teachers is barely half the student-to-teacher ratio recommended by the Indiana Division of Professional Standards.

More trained staff could mean students aren't relegated to the areas where the few bilingual teachers work, such as the special education class. Gerardo Lopez, an associate professor of education leadership and policy studies, whose research on migrant education is cited in the report, said the lack of staff leads to those students only being exposed to a small part of the school.

"Latino students, or any other students, really don't get to interact with any other teacher, or any other group of educational experts beyond those who have the linguistic capacities to work with them," Lopez said.

Lauren Harvey, assistant director of Language Minority and Migrant Programs in the Indiana Department of Education and also a report co-author, agreed that schools must have more trained personnel.

"It's really important that school corporations have qualified staff, and they have teachers not only with a few in-services or workshops under their belt, but that they actually have staff that has the certification or endorsement in the ESL area," Harvey said. "And right now, that is kind of limited in availability as far as the number of institutes of higher education that offer the certification and the number of teachers that actually complete it."

The IU School of Education began the Tandem Certification of Indiana Teachers (TACIT) program five years ago to address the licensing issue. TACIT is a federally-funded, five-semester course 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.

The U.S. Department of Education just granted the school of education on the IUPUI campus nearly $1.5 million to prepare ESL teachers. The School of Education at IU Southeast in New Albany, Ind., just received the largest-ever grant for that campus -- $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education -- to train more ESL teachers in Floyd County, Clark County and Seymour, Ind., and will be teaming with IU Bloomington in the effort.

These efforts are consistent with the report's recommendation that state and local governments as well as local school corporations should form stronger partnerships with university-based resources throughout the state. The authors also suggest Hoosiers should view newcomers as more of a resource for learning, rather than viewing them as a "problem," and expand efforts to build cultural competency. Some ideas proposed include more study abroad programs and dual immersion Spanish-English schools, or programs within individual schools, which could help students and community members understand the cultures newcomers come from.

"You have the myth that students just need to learn English, and they'll be okay, and you can just learn English by being immersed in the context," co-author Peter Cowan, assistant professor of language education, said. "And it's a lot more complicated than that."

The full report may be viewed at

CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to