Purdue professors work to improve English learning in Indiana

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Two Purdue College of Education faculty members received multi-million dollar grants from the U.S. Department of Education to tackle the shortage of adequately trained English language learning and bilingual educators in Indiana.

Trish Morita-Mullaney, an assistant professor of literacy and language and Wayne Wright, a professor and the Barbara I. Cook Chair of Literacy and Language, received the grants, which extend for five years and total $3.8 million.

The grants are the first of their kind to be received by College of Education faculty at Purdue.

More than 400 educators of English as a Second Language (ESL) students will be served through the projects, including teachers, administrators, family liaisons and ESL families.

Morita-Mullaney, principal investigator for the grants, and Wright, co-principal investigator, will license and train current elementary teachers in literacy and English language learning and current K-12 teachers in bilingual education programs.

English learners are the fastest growing student community in Indiana, but preparation in pre- and in-service education for teachers falls short,” Morita-Mullaney said. “With our school and community partners, we intend to stretch our definition of a language teacher to include bilingual parents, community agencies and educators.”

Both projects collaborate with community organizations La Plaza as well as the Center for Intercultural and International Education at Goshen College to identify and describe the needs of English learning families in the five partnering school districts, including schools in Lafayette, Frankfort, Goshen, Logansport and Lawrence Township – five highly populated ESL districts.

The first grant, titled Leveraging the Lectura y Lenguaje, focuses on increasing overall literacy and English language development capacities of elementary pre- and in-service educators, administrators and family liaisons.

The second grant, Professional and Parental Understanding for Equity in Dual Language Education (Project PUEDE), creates biliteracy and language bridges with community agencies that contribute to family engagement, teacher quality and student achievement in literacy and English language learning. 

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