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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grant will fund development of ELL teaching at IU, Indianapolis Public Schools

School of Education at IUPUI earns nearly $1.5 million federal grant

Sept. 13, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University School of Education has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will fund a partnership between the School of Education at IUPUI and the Indianapolis Public Schools to implement a five-year project to better prepare teachers of English Language Learners before they begin their careers, develop skills of current teachers, and revise teaching methods of IU faculty.

Annela Teemant

Annela Teemant

Print-Quality Photo

Over the course of five years, IU faculty plan to revise university curricula, evaluate teacher effectiveness, and prepare more secondary content teachers for IPS schools. Three IPS schools will be working in the program. At the end of five years, project directors expect to have prepared 75 "master teachers," instructors who can mentor new teachers entering ELL teaching.

"The funding will allow us to transform not only what we do here at the university in terms of modeling the kind of pedagogy that works for diverse learners," said project director Annela Teemant, associate professor of language education at IUPUI. "It allows us to go into the public school setting and work with teachers who are already in the field to build on the good work that they're already doing."

The numbers of ELL students in IPS have grown dramatically over the last several years. The Indiana Department of Education reports IPS had 3,244 "limited-English students" in the school year 2005-06. A decade earlier IPS had 257.

This project is intended to focus on working with such students in areas aside from language acquisition. Faculty from other IU departments, including science and mathematics, will be a part of the program. Teemant said the program will focus on how well such students can pick up on other concepts while trying to master a new language.

"We call these students English language learners," Teemant said, "but they're not only learning English. They're learning academic content simultaneously."

Associate professor of language education and project co-director Beth Berghoff said while the project focuses on three IPS schools -- an elementary school, a middle school and a high school -- the development of master teachers will touch the entire system when the project is done.

"It will start with three schools and get them up and running in a way that lets other schools see what the possibilities are," Berghoff said. "And we can branch from those three to three more to three more. It's a building process."

The project outlines a four-phase implementation, beginning with the university and schools articulating a vision for the program. Professional development for university faculty and public school teachers then will focus on redesigning curriculum and methods. The third phase will take those redesigns into the classrooms. The program concludes with evaluations of teacher training, teacher performance and student achievement.

Berghoff said that the redesign of teacher education curricula will improve all aspects of preparing educators.

"We create a better urban teacher when we have this as our focus, and everybody learns more about what these children need in specific, but also what all children need."

MEDIA OUTLETS: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Teemant says the 5-year program will focus on providing more and better experience for the new teachers of English language learners:

"We'll be able to create across five years 75 exemplary placements for teacher candidates. We'll work with elementary, middle and high schools, so when we put student teachers out into the field who have an English as a new language credential attached to their licensing, they've actually been in a classroom where English language learners are. Because it is possible to get the degree and never have worked with an English language learner. But more than that they'll have in their student teaching experience the exact model from an expert master teacher in the public school setting of how they can transform their classroom, what kind of activity centers work with children, and how we can get all children using more language and developing higher order thinking skills."

Berghoff says the change the program will bring about in the IU teacher education program will benefit not just those who teach English language learners:

"The interesting thing about what you need to know to teach ELL children well is (that it is) what you need to know to be a good teacher. So the beauty of focusing on this as our way to improve our preparation for teachers is it helps us in every other aspect of our teacher education program. We create a better urban teacher when we have this as our focus, and everybody learns more about what these children need in specific, but what all children need."

The grant helps fulfill a longtime and growing need, says Berghoff:

"Ten years ago we started hearing from IPS 'We need more teachers. We have to have some teachers who can meet the needs of these students.' We've slowly tried to build programs so that we were graduating more teachers that had the ESL endorsements. Five years ago we attempted to get this grant, and we didn't succeed, so we had to sort of limp along for another five years. We're thrilled now to finally have this kind of resourcing so that we can work in the schools. We can work here at the university, and we can build something that will sustain this kind of change. What we've learned is that change isn't going away, and we have to have mechanisms to stay on top of the kind of change we're going to see. So this helps us build the kind of infrastructure for that to happen."