Illinois State Law and UIC Policy
Illinois State Law Regarding the Oral English Proficiency Requirement for Non-Native English-Speaking Teaching Assistants
In 1987, the State of Illinois passed the University of Illinois Act (110 ILCS 305), which includes a requirement that all state university instructors with student contact demonstrate oral English proficiency (Sec. 7c). Since they provide classroom instruction, non-native English-speaking teaching assistants fall into this category.
UIC Policy Regarding the Oral English Proficiency Requirement for Non-Native English-Speaking Teaching Assistants
UIC’s policy was created to respond to Illinois law (110 ILCS 305/7c) and applies to all non-native English-speaking TAs, regardless of their citizenship status or instructional responsibilities (e.g., office hours, lab instruction, discussions, recitation classes, grading).
In order to comply with Illinois law and enforce UIC’s corresponding policy, the International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP) was established. ITAP’s primary responsibilities are assisting colleges and departments in determining oral English proficiency for teaching assistants, managing records of certification, and assisting international teaching assistants in reaching the goal of acceptable English intelligibility.
To assess the oral English proficiency of teaching assistants, ITAP uses an in-house assessment called the Oral Certification Interview (OCI).
Requirements for Graduate Admissions vs. Requirements for Instructional Responsibilities
The English proficiency requirements for admission to the Graduate College are different than the oral English proficiency requirements for teaching at the university. There is a significant difference between the minimum English proficiency needed to be a graduate student and the level of spoken English ability needed to be a confident and successful TA in the U.S. university classroom.
The university requires a high level of spoken English proficiency for all graduate students with instructional responsibilities. Under Illinois state law, the University must attest to the English proficiency of all classroom instructors, including:
- Graduate students who have been given a TA position or who are prospective teaching assistants. This includes TA appointments for face-to-face classes, online or hybrid course instruction, grading, and office hours. All non-native English-speaking TAs who have oral interaction with students must provide evidence of spoken English proficiency.
- Graduate students whose English test scores were waived for Graduate College admission because they have recently completed at least two academic years of full-time study in a country where English is the native language. (See the Graduate College international admissions page for more information on this policy.) This waiver of English scores for Graduate College admission does not exempt anyone from being tested by ITAP when they are given a TA position.