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All parents have the right to information about their child’s education in a language they understand. When your child enrolls in school, the school will ask you about the language you would like touse when communicating with the school. This helps your school identify your language needs so they can provide an interpreter or translated documents, free of charge.
Click here for additional information about Interpretation and Translation Services.

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents of ELLs:

What do I need to know?
What is an English language learner?
How does the school know that my child is an English learner?
How does the ESL teacher assess my child's level of English proficiency?
What are the different levels of English language proficiency?
What kinds of services will my child receive as part of the ESOL program?How will I know what kinds of ESL services my child will receive?What if I do NOT want my child to participate in the ESL program?When is my child no longer eligible to participate in the ESL program?What types of classroom accommodations are available to ELLs?
What are the rights of ESL parents?
What if there are additional questions or more information is needed?


What do I need to know?

As the parent of an English learner there is a lot you need to know, including how your child is: 

  • Identified as an English learner

  • Taught English and other subjects

  • Tested

  • Determined to be proficient in academic English and moved out of English learner services 

What is an English language learner?

An English learner is a student who is in the process of learning to speak, read, write, and understand academic English. This is the English that is used in classrooms, textbooks, and tests. English learners are usually students whose home language is not English.

How does the school know that my child is an English learner?

When you register your child for school, you will fill out a Home Language Survey (HLS). The HLS is the first step districts take to meet the federal requirement to identify language minority students. 

 A Tennessee HLS must include the following three questions:

What is the first language you learned to speak?
What language does this child speak most often outside of school? 
What language do people usually speak in this child’s home?

Any response other than English identifies the student as Non-English Learner Background (NELB) and they are considered a potential English language learner (ELL). These students will be screened by a certified ESL teacher.If the screener shows that your child is not yet proficient in English, then they will be classified as an English learner. 

How does the ESL teacher assess my child's level of English proficiency?

Each year, schools must test all English learners. Students are determined to be proficient when they can speak, read, write, and understand academic English at a specific level. When they reach this level, they are reclassified and no longer receive English language development services, although the school will continue to check their progress.

Tennessee utilizes the WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test (W-APT) to assess eligibility for ESL services for kindergarten students and the WIDA Screener for grades 1–12. These screeners are used by educators to measure the English language proficiency of students who have recently arrived to the U.S. or to a particular district, and to determine whether or not a child is eligible for English language acquisition services. Screeners are given only one time in a student’s academic career.

The WIDA ACCESS for ELs 2.0 assessment is a standards-based, curriculum-referenced English language proficiency assessment designed to measure an EL’s social and academic English proficiency and progress. It assesses the social and academic language across the four language domains of speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

The results of WIDA ACCESS for ELs 2.0 assessment:

  • serve as one criterion to aid in determining when ELs have attained the language proficiency needed to meaningfully participate in content area classrooms without ESL program support and state assessments without accommodations;

  • provide districts with information that will aid in evaluating the effectiveness of ESL programs; and

  • identify English language proficiency.

All students identified as ELs—including those whose parents have waived ESL services—must be administered the WIDA ACCESS for ELs 2.0 during the annual English language proficiency testing window.

What are the different levels of English language proficiency?

Level 1 Entering:  the student knows and uses minimal social language and minimal academic language with visual support.
Level 2 Emerging:  the student knows and uses some social English and general academic language with visual support.
Level 3 Developing:  the student knows and uses social English and some specific academic language with visual support.
Level 4 Expanding:  the student knows and uses social English and some technical academic language.
Level 5 Bridging:  the student knows and uses social and academic language working with grade level material.
Level 6 Reaching:  the student knows and uses social and academic language at the highest level measured by this test.

What kinds of services will my child receive as part of the ESOL program?

Hamilton County Schools strives to provide ESOL services in the least restrictive manner possible. Therefore, a variety of services are offered to ELs which are dependent upon their level of English language proficiency. Types of services currently available are listed below:
Sheltered English Instruction is an instructional approach whereby teachers use physical activities, visual aids, and the environment to teach students the vocabulary necessary to understand content subjects. It delivers language-rich, grade-level content instruction in English that is comprehensible to ELs. While sheltered English instruction is commonly used for intermediate to advanced students, this model may also be effective with students at any level.

Structured English Immersion is a technique for rapidly increasing the language proficiency of ELs. Many SEI programs provide some bilingual support. The hallmark of this program is that the focus is on English, not specific content, for extended periods of time.

Teachers may use strategies such as graphic organizers, visuals, gestures, and realia to support comprehension. Students are encouraged to produce language to demonstrate communication. Traditional English language development (ELD) classes are often considered Structured English Immersion courses. Structured English Immersion courses are common in middle and high school programs for students who have difficulty accessing content in an English-only classroom. EL students, similar to students with disabilities, should be with grade-level peers when appropriate, and where linguistic needs are met.

Structured English Immersion is often used as a newcomer program for ELs. During this first year, basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) are the focus. As students learn the basic communication skills needed, the goal of the program shifts to cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP).

Newcomer programs are effective and designed to be short term, so that students learning English do not generally spend more than an academic year outside of a typical classroom with peers.

Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English(SDAIE) is an approach to teach English simultaneously with content. SDAIE either requires intermediate fluency in English for the EL to be able to access the content, or the lessons must be carefully scaffolded to provide the language to the ELs who are at a beginning to low intermediate level. Lessons are focused on both content and language acquisition. The focus in the SDAIE model is the blending of English acquisition with content instruction.

Content-based English Instruction(CBI) is designed to provide English learner instruction in content and language. During CBI, engaging language lessons are blended with content. Students have an increased focus on core content versus explicit language acquisition.

Research indicates that it is critical for ESL teachers to provide a content-rich, high-standards curriculum that prepares ELs to become academically successful in content learning. The content-based educational curriculum (CBEC) provides four strong areas of support:

  1. ELs learn age-appropriate content knowledge that reflects the content learning in the mainstream and can be motivating to ELs.

  2. ELs read authentic texts, not simplified or contrived text written for ELs only.

  3. ELs view language learning as becoming more purposeful because they are learning the language, not about the language.

  4. ELs learn technical vocabulary and use it in context.

Pull-out English Instructioninvolves students being removed from the general education classroom to work in a small group. Pull-out ESOL requires that ELs miss core class time, which can pose challenges. In order to use pull-out effectively, the student must be unable to access content in a general education classroom due to language proficiency. If content can be accessible in a general education classroom, then a push-in model may be more appropriate. Some ESL teachers pull-out mixed-level proficiency groups while others pull out by proficiency levels that may include mixed grade levels.

In Push-in English Instruction, the ESL teacher can push-in for small group instruction or co-teaching to the general education classroom. The push-in model increases the amount of time the EL is in with peers in the general education classroom and reduces the time they are away from core instruction. The ESL teacher can teach for the entire group certain language aspects and scaffold for the entire group. Some programs refer to this as the pull-in model but the use of the term inclusion is avoided, since that term is frequently associated with service to students with disabilities.

How will I know what kinds of ESL services my child will receive?

Hamilton County Schools is required to inform parents in writing of the kind of ESOL service an ELL receives. The ESL teacher sends a “Notice of Eligibility” to the parents at the beginning of each school year detailing the information specific to each child. If at any time a parent/guardian does not understand the information provided on the notice, he/she may contact the school and request a meeting with the ESL teacher or contact the Director of ESOL.

What if I do NOT want my child to participate in the ESL program?

After your child has been identified as an English language learner the ESL teacher who administered the language screener will meet with you to discuss the ESOL program and services. If you do not want your child to participate in the ESOL Program, then you may waive direct ESL services for your child. Parents who waive services must do so in writing on an annual basis. An ESOL Department staff member will ask you to complete and sign a Parent Waiver letter which states your understanding of the programming services that you are waiving. You may reconsider your decision to waive ESL services at any time. 

A Wavier of ESOL Programming is only a waiver of direct ESOL support services by an ESL teacher. ELs in Waiver status have a right to accommodations for standardized testing as well as modifications in the classroom. 

An EL whose parent has chosen to waive ESOL services is not exempt from ACCESS for ELLs, the federally mandated annual assessment of all ELs on their English language proficiency. These students are to be identified and coded as ELs and will continue to be coded as such until the student reaches an English proficiency level that meets the state requirements to exit ESOL services. 

When is my child no longer eligible to participate in the ESL program?

In order to comply with state and federal requirements, every active ELL is reassessed annually with the appropriate level of the ACCESS for ELLs during the months of February and March. Any student who meets the state exit criteria will be exited from the ESOL program. Parents are notified in writing of the child’s exit from the ESOL program. A copy of the exit form is placed in the student’s cumulative folder and ESL folder.
Your child’s progress will be monitored for fourcalendar years after meeting exit criteria. Please note that your child may be reclassified as an EL during the monitoring period if it is determined that they are struggling academically due to a lack of English proficiency and that accommodations are not adequate for the student to experience academic success.

What types of classroom accommodations are available to ELLs?

A team of educators will use a variety of student information to develop an individualized learning plan for your child. This plan will include the most current test data, annual goals for English language development, classroom accommodations, and testing accommodations. The following are examples of classroom accommodations that may be used with an ELL:

Label items in the classroom and/or school (English and native language)

Use graphic organizers, pictures, maps, and graphs

Provide realia (bring in the “real thing” to build content knowledge)

Provide advanced organizers

Frontload (key vocabulary, key concepts)

Reduce language complexity of assignments and assessments

Provide linguistic modification/language simplification

Student participates in cooperative group assignments

Allow for written responses at the student’s ELP level

Reduce the language demands by providing contextual supports (scaffolding)

Increase wait time, and ask questions at student’s ELP level

Allow student opportunities to read and speak aloud successfully

Provide both oral and written instructions (graphics when appropriate)

Use manipulatives (both student and teacher)

Provide assignments that emphasize oral language and literacy development.

Structure academic language using sentence starters

Use audiobooks or electronic readers

Use cognates (when appropriate) to enhance teaching and learning

Allow for individual or small-group test administration

Provide clear and specific feedback

Partner English learner with strong English speaker (when appropriate)

Provide alternative assignments that meet the standard or objective

 

Provide closed captioning

Provide extended time to complete tests and assignments

 

Record material for student listening and review

Highlight/color code tasks, directions, or letters home

 

Provide student with take-home materials to practice concepts

Break assignments into a series of smaller assignments

Differentiate scoring of language and content

 

Use graphic organizers, pictures, maps, and graphs

Provide non-linguistic representations to aid in understanding

Provide advanced organizers

Provide student with copies of teacher notes/ outlines/ transparencies/lectures

 

Reduce language complexity of assignments and assessments

Provide dialogue (interactive) journal

Student participates in cooperative group assignments

Reduce the language demands by providing contextual supports (scaffolding)

Structure academic language using sentence starters

Allow student opportunities to read and speak aloud successfully

Use cognates (when appropriate) to enhance teaching and learning

Use manipulatives (both student and teacher)

Provide clear and specific feedback

Provide extended time to complete tests and assignments

 

Provide alternative assignments that meet the standard or objective

 

Highlight/color code tasks, directions, or letters home

 

Break assignments into a series of smaller assignments

 

What are the rights of ESL parents?

As a parent/guardian, you have certain rights regarding your child’s participation in the ESL program:

  1. You have the right to decline participation for your child in the ESOL program. At any time, you may request that your child opt out of the ESL program. It will be noted that your child should not receive direct ESL services. However, your child will still be considered LEP, and based upon his proficiency levels, may still qualify for classroom and testing accommodations. If you have declined direct ESL services, Hamilton County Schools is still required by the state of Tennessee to test your child during the annual LEP testing window in February and March. You may request that your student be placed back in the ESL program at any time.

  2. You have the right to get help in choosing a program and making decisions about your child’s education. If you have questions, please contact your school so the ESL teacher can schedule a meeting with you to discuss the options available to your child.

What if there are additional questions or more information is needed?

If you have questions or would like more information about your child’s participation in the Hamilton County Schools ESL program, your best source of information is your child’s school. Please contact your child’s principal, ESL teacher, classroom teacher or the Director of ESOL Programs at (423) 498-7020.