Schools revamp English classes

The hallways and classrooms of Franklin schools are being filled with an ever-increasing number of diverse students, and teachers are changing how they work to help make English learners successful.

The number of Hispanic students in Franklin has jumped more than 91 percent in the past five years, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education. Methods teachers used to use were no longer effective with a growing group of students, superintendent David Clendening said.

Students can feel lost when surrounded by English-speaking students, or don’t understand what a teacher is instructing them to do in class, English as a second language teacher Michelle Dillon said.

Foreign-speaking students not only have to learn what is required in their grade level, but they also need to comprehend what they’re learning. For example, on a vocabulary test, a typical elementary-aged student will know what a quarter is, but doesn’t know how to spell the word. An English as a second language student will have to first understand what a quarter is, then learn the spelling, Dillon said.

In the past two years, two Johnson County school districts have devoted more time and state funding toward offering culture-competency training and hired more teachers to work with students who don’t speak English as their native language. Johnson County’s Hispanic student population has grown from 791 students in 2010 to more than 1,200 this year, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

Due to the explosion of students within the last five years, what used to work effectively for a smaller number of students doesn’t work anymore, school officials said. Franklin used to have one English as a second language coordinator for the entire school district. She was expected to travel between eight schools and tutor the students with their homework and make their lessons more understandable. With Franklin’s Hispanic population nearly doubling in five years, one person couldn’t reach every student as they used to be able to.

To address the school districts’ high number of students who do not speak English as their native language, school districts have revamped their English as a second language programs. Greenwood and Franklin officials hired more specialized teachers to work with students one-on-one. In addition, classroom teachers received training to better understand a student’s background, culture and learning style.

In the spring, Franklin schools brought in an expert from the Indiana Department of Education to see how the school district could more effectively teach students who don’t have English as their first language, Clendening said.

“What we gleaned was that the responsibility is on everybody, not just one teacher,” Clendening said.

As a result, two English as a second language teachers were hired, with one tackling the secondary grade levels and one to focus on elementary students. The English as a second language teachers meet with groups of three to five students to go over what certain words mean or prepare them for a future lesson so students aren’t lost in class, Dillon said. For example, Dillon will get vocabulary words or presentation slides ahead of time from a student’s teacher, so the student can not only get familiar with the words but also understand what words, images or symbols mean, she said.

Classroom teachers have also been trained on how to re-enforce what their English a a second language teachers are showing them in private instructional time, Clendening said.

At Greenwood schools, Hispanic students make up more than 8 percent of the student body, with about 337 Hispanic students enrolled this year, compared to 301 students in 2010.

Within the past five years, an apartment complex along County Line Road closed for remodeling, which led many families that lived there to move school districts from Greenwood to Perry Township Schools in Marion County. Northeast Elementary School, which is less than a mile south of County Line Road, lost more than 30 Hispanic students in one year due to the apartment complex closing, said Vicki Noblitt, Greenwood’s director of student services.

If Hispanic families didn’t move into Indianapolis, the students mostly enrolled at Southwest Elementary School instead, Noblitt said. Southwest Elementary School has had the highest number of Hispanic students at Greenwood’s four elementary schools for the last three years, she said.

Greenwood had to shift their resources for English as a second language students, and created a new position last year to address the needs of elementary-aged students who do not speak English as their native language, Noblitt said. The English as a second language coordinator travels among the four elementary schools to tutor more than 150 students, Noblitt said.

School officials are also spending state funding for students who don’t speak English fluently for culture-competency training so teachers can understand different cultural norms, religions or backgrounds of other students, Noblitt said.

By the numbers

Here’s a look at how the Hispanic population has grown within five years:


Johnson County Hispanic student population: 791 students

Center Grove: 122 Hispanic students corporation-wide

Clark-Pleasant: 205 students

Edinburgh: 24 students

Franklin: 129 students

Greenwood: 301 students

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson: 10 students


Johnson County Hispanic student population: 1,207 students

Center Grove: 282 students corporation-wide

Clark-Pleasant: 257 students

Edinburgh: 52 students

Franklin: 247 students

Greenwood: 337 students

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson: 32 students

Source: Indiana Department of Education