Ensuring that Hoosier Schools Prepare English Learners for Success

Posted by Rachel Davidson, Nathan Wiliamson on

In many Central Indiana school districts, student enrolment is on the rise. With this growth, schools have become more diverse, and educators are working to find ways to serve growing populations of English as a Second Language (ESL) students. Check back to  learn from local educators, organizations, and professionals about about why this matters, understand what is being done in our community to support this population of students, and identify ways you can help, as a part of WFYI's October American Graduate blog series around supports for English language learners.


English learners bring a wealth of social and linguistic experiences to Hoosier schools, providing opportunities for educators and students to interact and learn from different cultures.  It is essential that all educators be committed to ensuring that all students receive an education of equity and high quality that prepares them for future college and career opportunities.  Increased awareness of the needs of English learners, including how to provide appropriate support and services, and a heightened sense of cultural competency, ensure that Hoosier schools are preparing English learners for success, both now and in the future.    

Every school corporation throughout Indiana has diverse students, representing more than 250 distinct languages and cultures.  The number of English learners working toward English language proficiency, based on the state English language proficiency assessment (WIDA), continues to increase year after year.  More than 61,000 English learners not only call Indiana home, but depend on our schools to provide rich educational opportunities that help enhance language skills and prepare students for future success, making Indiana one of the fastest growing English learner populations in the country. 

In order to provide rich academic language development to English learners, the Indiana Department of Education adopted the WIDA English Language Development (WIDA ELD) standards in October 2013. These standards provide a framework for instructional and assessment planning for English learners so that they may attain English proficiency, develop high levels of academic attainment in English, and meet the same rigorous Indiana College-and-Career Ready Standards that all Hoosier students are expected to meet.  

These standards serve as a foundation for curriculum, instruction, and assessment, not only in the area of English, but in all academic content areas, including language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.  All educators regardless of grade level or content expertise are English language teachers.  All of Indiana’s students need high-level English skills to be successful both in and outside the classroom.

 The Indiana Department of Education also provides embedded and ongoing professional development on English language instruction so that Hoosier teachers are better equipped to provide English learners with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom.  During the summer of 2014, the Department provided more than twenty trainings throughout the state to thousands of educators on standards, educational technologies and assessments.  

This year, Department staff will once again provide twenty-four training sessions during the summer to ensure that all educators have the opportunity to receive high-quality professional development to support our English learners. 

While professional development for educators is essential to ensuring student success, one of the greatest resources for school corporations is collaboration with other school corporations throughout the state.  The Department’s Division of Outreach for School Improvement has worked to encourages schools with similar demographic make-ups to form collaborative relationships with similar school corporations, local universities, and community based organizations to gain a deeper understanding of how to provide the support and services students need to be successful.  School districts that have had success with a family engagement program or specific English learner curriculum work to share those successes with other schools and help promote a deeper understanding of how a students’ culture can impact their learning. 

Additional resources and guidance can be found on the Department of Education’s Office of English Learning and Migrant Education website: www.doe.in.gov/elme

What strategies do you know of that are being used to support ESL students? How can we conintue to support students for whom English is their second language? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and on social media using #AmGradIndy.


Nathan Williamson is an English Learner specialist in the Office of English Learning and Migrant Education at the Indiana Department of Education. Nathan earned his B.S. in Elementary Education and his M.S. in Language Education from Indiana University.  Nathan serves on the board of INTESOL as treasurer. 


Rachel Davidson works at IDOE in the role of English Learning and Migrant Education Coordinator.  Rachel earned her B.A. from the University of Georgia and her M.S. in ESL Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  In addition, she serves on the board of INTSOL as past president.


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