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Rural Indiana Districts Struggle to Teach English-Language Learners

Teachers in Indiana's rural schools with growing populations of students who are learning English often lack the time and resources needed to teach those students, Indiana Public Media reports.

In the past five years, Indiana has seen its number of ELL students grow by 10 percent, with the highest percentage of English-learners enrolled in the Community Schools of Frankfort district, one of the state's rural districts. Teachers in the district say they don't have enough ELL teachers, and the few they do have are often pulled away to fill in for lunch duty or other tasks. The district also lacks funding for resources and schools must rely on grant money to certify additional teachers to work with English language learners.

These issues are common in rural schools, according to a 2014 report by the Education Commission of the States. Nationwide, 3.5 percent of rural students are English-language learners, and it's the fastest-growing population in schools. As rural schools have become increasingly diverse over the past few years, English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers have been stretched thin, according to the report. Rural ESL teachers "are isolated geographically but also professionally" and often lack resources that could make education more effective for ELL students.

Rural schools in many states have struggled to teach students who are learning English, especially in the midst of budget cuts. In Ohio, rural schools that have typically received federal funding for children of seasonal migrant workers have lost funding as those migrant families have settled down permanently and no longer qualify for the extra funds. A 2015 report by the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho found that in rural states like Idaho and along the east coast, a "the lack of adequate bilingual/bicultural staff and scarce funding make it difficult to provide individualized instruction or tutoring to English-language learners."

A recent Education Week special report highlighted some of the challenges all schools face when teaching English-language learners, like a lack of learning materials, as well as some solutions that could improve outcomes for these students, such as better home-school relationships. Check out that seriesĀ here.

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