INside Story

Wayne Township Schools’ Language Assistance Program finds growing need

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The number of students learning the English language in Indiana is growing and schools are feeling the impact.

This week, News 8’s Camila Fernandez is taking a deep dive into dual-language education and how some schools in Indianapolis are meeting their students’ cultural and linguistic needs.

Across Indiana, there are nearly 78,000 students called English learners who receive lessons in both English and Spanish. The number of English learners in Indiana schools has increased by almost 27,000 from six years ago.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More and more students are becoming English learners in Indiana and there’s one Indianapolis school district that’s seen a significant change in its classrooms.

This year, several hundred students became English learners at Wayne Township Schools.

The school district is pushing to make sure that these students feel welcome while helping them improve their English language skills.

“We want them to be immersed in the language, but we also don’t want them to be frustrated or feel lost,” said Dennisha Murff, the Language Assistance Program curriculum coordinator at Wayne Township.

Wayne Township has 3,558 English learners, which is 368 students more than in 2021. There are 16,330 students in the Marion County school system. According to the Wayne Township school district last year, it had 16,451 students.

To help English learners thrive, the school district has created a Language Assistance Program (LAP) that’s fully staffed with 52 teachers, 46 paraprofessionals or classroom assistants, and two Language Assistance Program parent liaisons.

At Rhoades Elementary School, there are more than 200 English learners with three full-time and one part-time language assistance teachers, as well as additional resources.

“Sometimes the student might just need a paraprofessional to come and support them in the classroom. Sometimes you might have a student who is really new to the country and they need more one-on-one attention or a small group. In that case, we would pull them out and work with them in the LAP classroom,” language assistance program teacher at Wayne Township Emily Polanco, said.

Aretha Britton is the school’s principal. She says with a growing English learners student population, there are some challenges.

“As our enrollment continues to increase, it gets harder and harder to cluster those classrooms or to spread the love because we only have this many teachers, or three or four paras, and we just can’t get to all the needs like we really want to,” principal of Rhoades Elementary School, Aretha Britton, said.

However, the school district says they are looking at expansion.

“That requires us to look at other countries because if we would do something like that, we really want to make sure that we have a native speaker because that is a true immersion program, a dual language program, so there are lot’s of pieces to the puzzle, but it has been brought up,” Murff said.

Overall, the school district says they’re focused on supporting their teachers to help give students the education they deserve.

“That is our ultimate goal. That every classroom has a teacher, a highly qualified teacher, who is well versed in sheltered instruction, and can use that in their daily instructional practices,” Murff said.

 Part 5