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November 2004

Advocacy in ESL

Transition, Turmoil & Hope

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New Signs of Activism in the ESL Profession
Steve Krashen Posts Article on ELL Advocacy

One of the strongest advocates for the interests of English language learners, their families and their teachers is Dr. Stephen D. Krashen, who has also now written an short article called "Advocacy in language education," breaking the process into three steps: 1) "Get informed"; 2) "Share with allies"; and 3) "Express your own point of view, from your own experience and expertise."

Dr. Krashen was one of the keynote speakers at the KATESOL/BE Conference in Hays, Kansas, earlier this year, including a panel discussion where he, Joy Reid, Bill VanPatten, Jackie Boyd, and Rebecca Kopriva shared insights on the conference theme, "Advocating for Language Learners in the Era of No Child Left Behind." That panel discussion is available for free as streaming video at, and all the major keynote addresses from KATESOL/BE 2004 are available on DVD from the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technology (CTELT) at Fort Hays State University, with information at:

One of the most eloquent calls for advocacy at that KATESOL panel discussion was given by Dr. Rebecca Kopriva, Director of the Center for the Study of Assessment Validity and Evaluation (C-SAVE), which is housed in the Department of Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation at the University of Maryland. Kansas TESOL/BE has undergone tremendous growth over the past several years, from fewer than 25 members to currently 200+ members, and Dr. Kopriva strongly encouraged KATESOL members to exercise their power as an advocacy group to influence policy decisions that impact English language learners in the state of Kansas.

Less than three months later, KATESOL members were making phone calls and sending faxes and e-mails, in concert with immigrant-rights and other advocacy groups, to successfully lobby the Kansas legislature to pass a much-needed bill, HB 2145, signed into law by Governor Kathleen Sebelius on May 20, 2004, to give resident tuition status to immigrant Kansans who meet stringent residency and immigration requirements. Then, in the summer, KATESOL/BE members responded to a request from a Republican legislator to support lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who had bravely voted for HB 2145 and were facing intense primary challenges funded by out-of-state anti-immigrant groups. Thanks to a spirited campaign of letters to the editor and word of mouth, KATESOL helped to protect 83 percent of the Kansas House and Kansas Senate incumbents who had voted in favor of the bill.

Four heroes who did go down in defeat were:

Stanley Dreher, Republican, District 9, Iola, KS
(in office since 1997)
Ruby Gilbert, Democrat, District 89, Wichita, KS
(in office since 1991)
William Kassebaum, Republican, District 68, Burdick, KS
(in office since 2003)
Cindy Neighbor, Republican, District 18, Shawnee, KS
(in office since 2003)

But the number one ESL advocate of all time is Stephen Krashen, whose example of selfless, tireless work on behalf of language learners is unparalleled. When he started his Web site,, earlier this year, thousands of ESL/ESOL/EFL professionals rushed to access free copies of essential Krashen texts, many of us happily joining the listserv which several times a day sends out notes about Dr. Krashen's most recently published letters to editor, usually on one of his three favorite topics: bilingual education, the importance of school libraries, and "sustained silent reading."

Dr. Krashen was welcomed to Kansas in March by 300 participants at the KATESOL Conference in Hays who were energized by his first ever visit to the state. Then, this August, more than 100 educators paid $500 each to see him keynote at the popular Diversity Institute in Garden City, Kansas. And Stephen Krashen will be received by hundreds more at next June's 2005 Migrant Ed Conference, sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education, in Wichita, Kansas.

At KATESOL in March, 2004, Stephen Krashen gave his keynote address three times so that everyone could get a chance to hear him speak (You can see it on streaming video for free at The rock-star adulation he enjoys when he visits what must fast be becoming his favorite state in the union--Kansas--is surpassed only by the extremely positive difference Dr. Krashen is making throughout the state, where issues related to the education of English language learners are moving quickly to the forefront.

At a time when progressive educators around the world might find a lot to feel cynical about, following November 2, 2004, Steve Krashen shows what it means to believe in a cause and support that cause with every ounce of your energy.

Article by Robb Scott

2004 ESL MiniConference Online