ESSA, English Learners’ Success, IDOE Priorities and Educator Preparation

Posted on November 26, 2018

By Donna Albrecht, Ed.D., Assoc. Professor at Indiana University SE,
Trish Morita-Mullaney, Ph.D., Asst. Professor Purdue University

According to Indiana’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 70% of Indiana’s English language learners (ELLs) must meet their individual growth targets in achieving English language proficiency as measured by WIDA ACCESS by 2022-23 (IDOE, 2018). Additionally, for each school building with 20 or more ELs, 10% of the federal accountability grade comes from this measure of growth towards proficiency. In 2017-18, 72.6% of schools received an “F” for this portion of their accountability grade, while only 2.7% received an “A”. Even more concerning is the facfirst-grade % of first grade students did not meet their growth targets for English language acquisition, and this gets progressively worse. By 12th grade, 100% of ELLs did not meet their growth targets. Additionally, as of 2017 ELLs’ academic achievement in English language arts (ELA) was 28.8% passing and in Math, 26.1%. In contrast, non-ELLs were achieving at a 66.8% pass rate in ELA and a 60% rate in Math.

What does this mean for you? Check your school corporation and building level data. Then, when you ask what you can do to achieve a greater level of success for our English learners, turn to Indiana Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages for the recommendations provided in their White Paper.

First, we provide you with some background. Indiana is the nation’s second fastest growing ELL population (Migrant Policy Institute, 2010, 2015). Indiana’s ELL students represent 276 distinct languages (IDOE, 2016) and has grown by over 500% in the last 15 years. Much like the USA, most of Indiana’s ELLs are born in the US already speaking two or more languages (Gándara & Contreras, 2010). Despite exponential growth of the state’s K-12 student ELL community, Indiana remains one of 15 states that does not require specific courses preparing teacher candidates to teach ELLs in mainstream classrooms (Tanenbaum et al., 2012) and there is virtually no national expectations for administrators to have any preparation with the exception of Illinois and Massachusetts (Morita-Mullaney, in press). As stated in the US Department of Justice and Education correspondence of January 2015, School districts have an obligation to provide the personnel and resources necessary to effectively implement their chosen EL programs. This obligation includes having highly qualified teachers to provide language assistance services, trained administrators who can evaluate these teachers, and adequate and appropriate materials for the EL programs (p. 14). In a study conducted to review qualifications and needs of ESL program directors in Indiana, the most powerful factors affecting leaders of ESL programs were 1) certification for teaching English learners; and 2) experience working with ELLs (Albrecht, 2014).

To address the growing needs and rights of ELLs, the INTESOL White Paper addresses the following:

1. ELL Knowledge: Creation of a knowledge base of ESL expertise and best practices based on current ESL research;
2. Pre-service education (future educators): Completion requirement of basic research-based ESL methods courses for all K-12 Indiana teaching licensure candidates;
3. INTESOL recommends the Indiana K-12 ELL license be required of all educators serving in the following roles: 1. Teachers of English language development (ELD) classes (whether preschool, primary, intermediate, middle, or high school); 2. District-level ESL coordinators and directors; 3. ESL instructional coaches
4. In-service teacher education and leadership (current educators): Completion requirement of advanced research-based ESL methods and policy courses offered by universities and/or approved professional development content by vetted professional development providers for all licensed K-12 ESL teachers, ESL program administrators, ESL directors and practicing general education teachers;
5. Educational Administration: Completion requirement of basic research-based ESL methods and policy courses for all K-12 administrator preparation (principal, assistant principal, central office coordinators, Superintendents) within Indiana educational leadership programs at universities; and
6. ELL Teacher/Student Ratios: Establishment and maintenance of appropriate caps on ESL teacher ELL student ratios.

Using a body of empirical research and input from every region of the state, including ELL teachers, principals, university faculty and educational services centers, this White paper is representative of the voices of the Indiana ELL profession. This White paper on ELL preparation is a worthy investment in our collective future. Hoosier ELLs, who comprise the fastest growing demographic in our state, deserve high-quality, research-based ENL education designed for their specific needs and rights. To read the full manuscript of the INTESOL White paper, visit the following website for more information: English Language Learner (ELL) Preparation for Indiana School Educators: A White Paper.

Selected References
Albrecht, D. L. (2014). Attitudes, backgrounds, and leadership efficacy of English as a second language program directors in Indiana Schools: implications for policy, leadership, and professional development (Doctoral dissertation, Ball State University).

ELL information center: Fact sheet series. Morita-Mullaney (in press). Intersecting leadership and English learner specialty: The nexus of creativity, resistance and advocacy. In L. deOliviera (Ed.) TESOL Handbook on K-12 education. TESOL Press: Alexandria, VA.

Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Public Law No. 114-95 (2015).

Gándara, P., & Contreras, F. (2010). The Latino education crisis : the consequences of failed social policies (1st Harvard University Press paperback ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Indiana Department of Education. (2011). Indiana Department of Education Non-English Speaking Program Migrant Policy Institute. (2010, 2015).

Migrant Policy Institute. (2010, 2015). ELL information center: Fact sheet series.

Tanenbaum, C., Boyle, A., Soga, K., Le Floch, K. C., Golden, L., Petroccia, M., Taylor, J. (2012). National Evaluation of Title III Implementation: Report on State and Local Implementation. Retrieved from Washington, DC.:

US Department of Justice & US Department of Education. (2015, January 7). Dear Colleague Letter, English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents. Retrieved from