How dual-language programs help English learners in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Liset Gonzalez Acosta serves as the duel-language director at Global Prep Academy, a public charter in Indianapolis.

It’s the city’s first dual-language charter school serving kindergarten through Grade 8. The school’s been open since 2016.

Acosta said they’re not only providing access to the language, but also cultural connections for their students, most of woman are Black and brown.

“We know that with Latino populations when they come to the United States what happens is they’re asked to learn English and to forget their roots, their native language, and, for the African Americans, it’s a way to give them access to a world that becomes even more diverse, where you need to have culture and understanding,” Acosta said.

Global Prep’s program is designed for students to have access in literacy in both languages. The academy has assessments for both languages, and they hyperfocus on students once they are in Grade 3 to assure they’re at their grade level with reading, math, understanding and concepts. Acosta said third grade is crucial because students go from learning to read to reading to learn.

“You don’t become bilingual in one year or two years. It’s a commitment that’s going to take five to eight years,” said Acosta about the commitment to the dual-language program.

In Lawrence Township public school district, at Sunnyside Elementary School, 60% of its students are Spanish-language speakers. The school is also addressing staffing with its duel-language program. It’s in the first year at the school, starting in kindergarden.

From kindergarten to Grade 2, 80% of students use Spanish and 20% use English in the classroom.

For Grade 3, 70% of students use Spanish and 30% use in the classroom.

From grades 4-6, it’s a 50-50 percentage split in the classroom.

Ann Tinker-Jackson serves as the Lawrence Township schools’ “English Learners Lead.”

Not every English learner student in the district is in the dual-program, but, in her role, she supports those students with best practices.

“We’ve had Vietnamese speakers. We have had a student from Napal. We’re having additional Haitian-Creole speakers at Sunnyside,” Tinker-Jackson said.

Sunnyside offers a “One-Way” program that only has native Spanish speakers. “Two-Way” is native Spanish and English speakers. Beatriz Smith is a dual-language Grade 4 teacher for the Lawrence Township district. She focuses on teaching “One-Way.”

“Once they continue with the program, by the time they graduate, they will be able to be biliterate and be bilingual,” Smith said.

Students in the program are also recognized by the Indiana Department of Education with a seal on their diploma to recognize that they’re biliterate.

Eloyda Lopez is teaches “Two-Way” for kindergarten and Grade 1. “Spanish speaker can help that English speaker for understanding vocabulary for comprehension,” Lopez said.


“The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has been actively engaged in this important topic in order to help schools provide our state’s approximately 77,500 English learner (EL) students with equal access to a high-quality education.

“This has included work to help schools provide EL students with ‘highly qualified teachers’ in alignment with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. As part of this guidance, schools are required to provide ‘the personnel and resources necessary to effectively implement their chosen EL programs.’ The federal guidance says that, ‘A school district must either hire teachers who already have the necessary formal qualifications to teach EL students or require that teachers already on staff be trained or work towards attaining the necessary formal qualifications and obtain the formal qualifications within a reasonable period of time.’

“To meet those requirements, in 2019 IDOE provided an update to schools, communicating that in order to remain in federal compliance, all schools would need to provide a ‘highly qualified’ teacher of record for all English learners. Teachers of record would be required to either obtain English as a New Language (ENL) professional licensure or meet the EL Teacher of Record rubric requirements by September 1, 2022. As you’ll see in the rubric requirements, this option was only available to established EL educators.

“If a school does not have an educator who meets one of those requirements, then they must apply for an ENL emergency permit. In order to quality for an emergency permit, an individual must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and must commit to work toward earning professional licensure in the content area of the permit. Emergency permits cannot be transferred to another school corporation. If a school is working to meet staffing needs, a school may request an emergency permit for a licensed educator in a content area other than what they are primarily licensed to teach. This emergency permit is valid for one year and may be renewed upon request of the school employer if the permit holder is making progress toward full licensure.

“To support Indiana schools and educators through this transition, IDOE opened the opportunity in 2019 with Title III funds to pay for EL educators to complete coursework required to meet rubric requirements. In February 2020, this opportunity was expanded with Title II funds to help EL educators complete courses toward ENL licensure. This program availability closed on September 1, 2022. IDOE is currently working to gather data on the total number of educators served through this program, and evaluating whether to extend another round of financial support for the completion of ENL coursework leading to professional licensure.

“Additionally, IDOE has supported schools by providing professional development training and additional support through this transition.

“Through this transition and with this support, we have seen the number of educators holding ENL professional licensure increase by 38% from 2019 to 2021, with 867 more educators now holding this permit statewide than in 2019.”

Holly Lawson, deputy director of communications, Indiana Department of Education