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Indiana to fund $2 million program to support English learner teachers

By Violet Comber-Wilen, IPB News | Published on in Community, Education, Government
Frankfort teacher Anne Lanum works with English learner students in 2016. (FILE Photo: Claire McInerny/IPB News)

The number of Indiana students learning English grew by more than 50 percent in the past five years. A new initiative offers free training for educators to learn how to teach these students.

Indiana will spend $2 million on a new initiative to train educators how to teach English to non-native speaking students. The program aims to boost the number of teachers licensed to help English language learners, as the number of those students increases across the state.

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is partnering with The Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis.

The program, called the Indiana Teachers of English Learners Licensure (I-TELL) initiative, funds tuition, books and material fees for current educators and bachelor’s degree holders to complete coursework leading to English as a New Language licensure.

Carey Dahncke is the executive director of CELL and said the program makes receiving this license more accessible.

“The program is designed to work with existing higher ed partners to train individuals who want to be a teacher, but maybe the financial burdens and impediments or the structure by which they would typically enter the profession create some obstacles,” Dahncke said. “And so this program is designed to clear those.”

Dahncke said there are sometimes teachers in these positions who are under qualified as many teachers do not hold this license. He said this license is important for non-native English speakers.

“It’s looking at, how do we help that teacher meet the needs of students in the classrooms and students can excel and meet the academic demands?” Dahncke said.

I-TELL’s sister program, Indiana Special Education Assisted Licensure, addressed similar shortages for teachers in special education. Dahncke said this program was a “positive success” and hopes to model this program similarly.

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Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said there has been a 50 percent increase in English learner students in Indiana since 2016.

“So we have over 77,000 English learner students in the state of Indiana, which means we have a great need for teachers and make sure we’re providing the most quality education for our teachers,” she said.

Jenner said these licenses will give English learner students increased attention and quality of learning.

There are more than 860 additional educators holding this permit now than in 2019.

Dahncke said he hopes to see this number of licenses continue to grow for increased support for these students.

“In many cases, schools are doing the best they can with the teachers that they have on staff,” he said. “And so our hope is that this will be a partnership with a school district that has a teacher who might be under qualified and wants to become fully qualified.”

Ten Indiana universities are offering the license completely online: Butler University, Goshen College, Huntington University, Indiana State University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Marian University, Purdue University, Taylor University, University of Indianapolis and Indiana University Southeast.

The program is funded through $2 million from Indiana’s federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding.

Eligible individuals can learn more and apply for assistance at IndianaTELL.org.

Contact reporter Violet at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.