Indiana will spend $2 million on a new program that intends to train more Hoosier educators to teach students who are English language learners.

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) recently announced the Indiana Teachers of English Learners Licensure (I-TELL) initiative. The program aims to boost the number of teachers licensed to help English-learning, as the number of those students increases across the state.

Current teachers — and those with bachelor’s degrees who would like to become educators — can receive funding for tuition, books and material fees to complete coursework leading to English as a New Language (ENL) licensure. 

The effort to strengthen Indiana’s English learner teacher pipeline will be carried out through a partnership between the IDOE and the University of Indianapolis’ Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL).

 Secretary of Education Katie Jenner (Courtesy


“Our COVID-19 academic impact data shows that Indiana’s English learner students experienced substantial academic impacts and have still not returned to pre-pandemic year-over-year academic growth,” Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said in a statement. 

The number of English learner students in Indiana has grown by more than 50% in the past five years, according to state data. English learners now make up more than 6% of Indiana’s total student population, equal to more than 77,500 students.

Jenner previously emphasized the state’s latest standardized testing scores showed “persistent learning gaps” — even prior to the pandemic — for English language learners. 

In 2022, roughly 10% fewer English language learners passed the multiple-choice IREAD than in 2019. That puts proficiency levels for English-learning students below those from the 2017-18 school year. 

“The number of students in Indiana who don’t speak English as their first language continues to rapidly grow,” CELL executive director Carey Dahncke said in a statement. “For these students, the need to have access to highly qualified English language teachers is critically important. I-TELL will offer assistance to the many schools across the state who need more of these English learner licensed teachers.”

The number of teachers in Indiana holding ENL licenses has grown by 38% from 2019 to 2021, with over 860 more educators now holding the permit statewide than in 2019. 

But school administrators across the state have maintained that Indiana needs to spend more on English language learning — double than what is spent now. State lawmakers are slated to decide on new funding in the 2023 legislative session.

“The best way to ensure our students accelerate their learning is to ensure they have quality, well-trained teachers supporting them. Like STEM and special education teachers, we also see a significant need for English learner teachers,” Jenner said. “Through the new I-TELL initiative, we will provide opportunities for more educators to be trained and certified to teach and positively impact our English learner students.”

Ten Indiana universities are already offering the ENL license completely online for current educators. Indiana University Southeast has a hybrid program available. Marian University additionally offers a 24-credit hour program for those looking to switch careers and become licensed K-12 teachers. ENL licensure is an option in that program.

The I-TELL program is funded through $2 million from Indiana’s federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding.

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