ESL legal requirements?

Discussion in 'ESL/ELL' started by waterfall, Aug 15, 2011.

  1. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Aug 15, 2011

    Do esl services legally have to be provided? Is this a state by state thing or federal law?

    I don't really understand how my school runs this. We are about 90% ELL students of varying English proficiency. We are a transitional bilingual model. In K-2, they offer Spanish literacy classes. The students have the option of taking reading/writing with the ESL teacher in Spanish instead of with their gen ed teacher in English. When they meet their Spanish reading goals, they gradually transition into the English class. All other subjects are taught in English from kindergarten. The idea is that they build their reading skills in their home language first, and then those skills will transfer to their second language (English). Typically, the brightest kids will transition out of Spanish literacy by the end of 1st grade. Most will transition by mid 2nd grade. Students with learning difficulties are often still trying to meet goals by the end of 2nd grade, but classes are not offered in Spanish in 3rd grade no matter what. In 3rd grade and above, they go to a more traditional "language aquisition" class where they reivew English vocabluary and things like that.

    The problem I see with this is that there are no "language acquisition services" in K-2. They're offering the classes in Spanish, but there are no ELA classes to help them learn English. That doesn't make sense to me. They're counting the Spanish literacy classes as the ESL class. Wouldn't K-2 be the time that they need the ELA classes the most? Our state testing starts in 3rd grade. I have 4 3rd graders that are on IEPs. Three of them were "unsatisfactory" on the test. When I looked more closely at their scores, I saw that all 3 were actually proficient in all the reading sections (fiction, non fiction, poetry), but their vocabulary scores were SO low that it caused them to fail the entire test. Our 3rd grade reading scores overall were incredibly low. I started looking up some kids I considered to be "average" and was seeing the same sort of thing- proficient reading sections but vocabulary scores that were causing them to fail the entire test. I know the fact that they are ELL students is definitely causing vocabulary to be a struggle for them. It doesn't make sense that we wouldn't be providing that instruction in k-2.

    So, is it illegal to not have ELA services (other than reading instruction in Spanish) in K-2? If so, what law says this? I just assumed this was something that had to be provided. If it's not illegal, what do ESL teachers think about the model we're doing? Is there some reasoning I'm not understanding here? I get the whole "build the literacy skills in their first language" thing, but shouldn't we also be helping them learn English alongside that?
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 15, 2011

    I know nothing about ELL guidelines...in my school our classes are ESL and taught only in English....pretty much the complete opposite of yours!
     
  4. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Aug 15, 2011

    Not an EL teacher, although that's what I'm getting my Master's in :)

    I don't know that there are federal mandates, because many states have "English only, no matter what" policies, so that's definitely more a district/state policy than something nation-wide.

    But here are some things I've learned in my first 3 classes...

    Home language (let's just say Spanish for the sake of shortening things, but any language works here) language skills are a HUGE predictor of second-language (let's say English) skills. By way of analogy, let's pretend you're dropped off a plane in, say, China. This particular area of China doesn't have English-speaking people, and you don't know a lick of Chinese. You're going to be able to get by and, say, order food in a restaurant, purchase souvenirs, etc... because you know how to do those things in English. You use your home-language knowledge base to get by in an unfamiliar language.

    Your ELL kids are doing the same thing... they need a strong base in their home language in order to transfer those skills to English. Even though they may not be getting direct instruction in English grammar, reading, etc., they are getting those things through other subject matters... they're hearing the vocabulary in science, math, SS, specials, etc. and that's helping them to learn the language.

    It seems like most of your kids are Spanish-speaking. Although grammar and spelling and vocabulary is different between the two languages, there are a LOT of similarities.

    I don't know if that makes sense or not :)
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Clarnet...that's exactly how our ESL teacher explains it as well!;)
     
  6. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Clarnet- that's exactly the philosophy my school has. That they will build their reading skills in their home language and then they will transfer them to reading in English. Like I said in the first post, I understand that part- that's why they offer the k-2 spanish literacy classes. What I don't understand though, is that they're not providing ELA classes in k-2. Sure, they're helping them read, but they're not helping them learn English. We also have many kids that end up opting out of the k-2 spanish literacy classes, even though they are spanish speakers. Ultimately it's the parents decision, and some parents want the students to learn English right away. Many of our low-income families attend free all-day preschool the year before they come to us for kinder, and that preschool is all in English. My P generally recommends that those kids be placed in English literacy (even if their family speaks Spanish) because at that point they've already spent a year learning the letters and sounds and speaking in English at preschool. Just as an example, we had one of the English pre-k students come to sign up for kinder last year. His mom really wanted him to be in the Spanish class anyway, so they tried to assess him in Spanish. He kept saying "talk to me in English!" and saying the letters/sounds in English. Mom ended up agreeing to let him stay in English. I'm the only special ed teacher, and I don't speak Spanish well enough to teach in it, so if the students need intensive interventions, they have to be placed in the English classes so that the instruction and interventions are taking place in the same language. If a kid meets their spanish literacy goals in 1st grade, they won't get services in 2nd grade. So anyway, there are a lot of kids that don't end up in that k-2 literacy program for the reasons mentioned above, and since that's the only form of "esl" that we offer in k-2, those kids get absolutely no services until 3rd grade when ESL is led more like a traditional "ELA" class. It just doesn't seem right to me.

    Also another interesting thing- I had two interns working with me at ESY who were grad students getting their masters in ESL/special ed. They were saying that the very latest research is going away from transitional bilingual models (like the program we have) because that model doesn't fit most ELL students in our country today. They said that model was created based on kids who literally showed up not knowing a single word of English (having never been in the country before). However, nowadays most kids in our geographic area that are ELL's were either born here or moved here at a very young age. Their families/family friends still speak Spanish all the time, so that is their strongest "home" language. However, they've picked up English just from being around the community and in different school or pre-school programs. This probably describes 98% of our ELL students. That I know of, we only had two children in the entire building that literally arrived days before from Mexico and didn't know a word of English. So anyway, the grad students were saying that for these students, they should be learning English and Spanish reading at the same time...not Spanish before English. They said they needed to be making the connections between things that were similar in both langauges sooner, and that the program we use is outdated. It's not my area of expertise, so I can't say for sure that they're right but that's what they were telling us.
     
  7. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Aug 15, 2011

    I see what you're saying, and don't have an answer for you. Most of my kids come speaking at least SOME English, also.

    My district is going to K-2 bilingual classes for Spanish speakers, with ESL support for other languages or older grade levels at my building. The largest building started with bilingual Spanish K last year, this year they will have K and1st, and so on. Apparently they have clumped the Arabic speakers 92nd largest non-English speaking group) in one K homeroom, although the teacher doesn't speak Arabic. The 3rd elementary school apparently doesn't have enough kids who speak one particular language to justify bilingual homerooms.

    We had a discussion in class last semester about what would be considered a child's "mother tongue," whether it's the language they learn first or the language they feel most literate in. It seems to me that it doesn't matter WHICH language is the most dominant, but at least one needs to be strong in order to strengthen the other language. I didn't really learn English grammar until learning high school Spanish, you know?

    The thing that does kids a real disservice is to not be functionally literate in EITHER language.
     

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