Department of Education funds partnership between SCH, Purdue, and MSD Lawrence Schools

Department of Education funds partnership between SCH, Purdue, and MSD Lawrence Schools

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education issued a $2.9 million grant to prepare dual language bilingual education teachers, administrators, families, and policymakers. 

Dr. Trish Morita-Mullaney, associate professor in the College of Education at Purdue University, will serve as Principal Investigator (PI). Along with Co-PIs, Dr. Jennifer Renn and Dr. Wayne Wright, and critical personnel, Dr. Virak Chan and Anne Garcia, M.S., their research will address a pressing need in dual language bilingual education in pre-and in-service education.

The five-year grant entitled, Parental Inclusion in Language and Research, or Project PILAR, works with school districts implementing dual language education models for their English learners. Dual language bilingual education purposefully blends English majority and English learners, teaching them in two languages. To date, Indiana schools have 33 such dual language models, primarily teaching in English and Spanish.

The school partners for this project include the MSD of Lawrence Township and the School City of Hammond. SCH Director of the Language Development Program Ana Verduzco and Morita-Mullaney are advocates for dual language education.

“Ana has the history of being a principal of a dual language program from its development to the present. I am so excited to collaborate with Ana and her team along with the EL families throughout Hammond schools,” Morita-Mullaney said.

Morita-Mullaney shared, “We work hard to make our bilingual English learners monolingual in our schools because our instruction is in English only. A dual-language education ensures that their bilingualism is maintained and developed. This model furnishes English learners not only with bilingual proficiency but affords them a strong sense of belonging—central to their continued education and civic engagement.”

Dual language teachers in the MSD of Lawrence and School City of Hammond will receive English learner licensure and a graduate dual language bilingual education certificate. Dr. Jennifer Renn, Associate Research Scientist, and co-PI, discussed the impact of coursework and instructional coaching on its dual language teachers.

“Dual language bilingual education is relatively new to Indiana, so dual language teachers are hungry for support and training that will help them effectively serve their students. The courses in the English learner and dual-language programs are designed to meet the needs of these teachers, and the instructional coach does a fantastic job of tailoring her feedback to each person. Teachers will graduate from this program with a deeper knowledge of the language and literacy development, tools to support DLBE students, and increased confidence in their ability to teach and advocate for their students.”

This expands the work of Morita-Mullaney’s previously funded USDE projects, where she and her team have already licensed over 100 teachers in English learners of dual language education.

La Plaza and the Hammond Hispanic Community Council will work with families participating in dual language education to identify how the program model has shaped the educational possibilities for their children.

“Families are already pivotal in the bilingual development of their children. In collaboration with our community partners, we look forward to finding out the many creative ways families are already promoting and developing bilingualism,” said Anne Garcia, the Family, Community, and School Engagement Manager for Project PILAR.

The enduring component of Project PILAR is its strategic focus on policy change. Language policies will be addressed by working with educational services centers and policy agencies, the IDOE, and Indiana TESOL. Dr. Wright, the Barbara I. Cook Chair of Literacy and Language, Professor, Associate Dean, and co-PI, explained,

“Educational policies seldom recognize the bilingual skills of our English learners. Project PILAR’s educators and families will help us identify the needs within this type of model, so policy can be specifically crafted to address the growing needs of Indiana’s English learners.”

Morita-Mullaney shared, “PILAR is just like it sounds. A pillar. In Spanish, a pilar. The project asserts that families are the pillars of the bilingual identities of their children, and it is from this grounding that we inform teacher education and policy transformation.”