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Throughout time families have migrated to the United States for a better life. But they have not always came with the knowledge to speak the English language. We all know they deserve the right to learn, therefore over the years the school systems have developed a plan to help the children who do not use English as their primary language have the capability to learn so they may also be successful in life. This paper reports the assessments, regulations, and rules that the state of West Virginia uses to determine the need of help for English language learners who enter the school system.
English Language Learners or ELLs make up a very important part of the school systems and can also make for a very tedious task for some school districts and teachers. One must keep in mind that each state and school district may have different rules and regulations when it comes to determining the eligibility of an English language learner. The state that will be discussed throughout this paper is West Virginia and the school district is Nicholas County.
Upon enrollment when the enrollment form is filled out it is required that there be a Home Language Survey completed. The questions on the Home Language Survey are the first step to identifying an ELL or as it is referred to in the state of West Virginia ESL (English as a Second Language). Basically this survey asks if there is a primary language other than English spoken in the students home.
If the answer is yes then they are submitted to testing to determine the students ELP (English Language Proficiency). The test examines reading, listening, speaking, and if the age is appropriate writing skills.
The outcome of the testing of the student's ELP will determine whether or not he or she is eligible for further services provided by the school district. There is a scale that ranges from one to five. One being the classified as negligible and five being completely proficient in speaking English. If the students scores range from one to four they are eligible for services, but a score of five makes them ineligible for any ELP services through the school district.
"Within 30 days of the student's enrollment, the ESL teacher will notify the parent in writing of the student's eligibility to participate, the type, and amount of ESL services. Parental consent is not required to receive program services. However, parents may refuse ESL services for their child.
In addition to ESL services, the school system will "Shelter" instruction in the regular classroom. The ESL teacher (or designee) can provide technical assistance to classroom teachers to ensure that effective Sheltered Instruction strategies and modifications are in place." (1)
The identification process is very important not only to help the students so they can better engage in classroom activities and lessons, but to be sure to help these students so they are successful in the future. If they do not understand the lesson that we as teachers are teaching then we are not sufficiently doing our job.
It is important to involve everyone who will be crossing paths with the ELL student throughout the journey of learning the English language. Teachers, parents, counselors are all important people in a students life and if they can all be on the same track then it will make the learning process much smoother for the student. In West Virginia all of these people collaborate for the good of the student. They come together to discuss cultural issues that may be hindering the students success, testing results, other resources that may be helpful to the student or the students family, and the ESL program in general.
It seems as though to formally score anything in the education system a test is always involved. In West Virginia school districts use a test called the West Virginia Test of English Language Learner or WESTELL. This is the main formal testing to determine and assess ELL students. It covers listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Non formal assessments to determine and observe the status and progress of an ELL student can be decided by the teacher and team that supports the student. Teachers can use methods such as dictation, which involves listening and writing. A method to assess an ELL students speaking and reading proficiency would be to have the student read a phrase or sentence then have them recite it. I think general observation is the most accurate and effective way to informally assess a child's progress.
There has to be a sense of time to completely evaulate a students progress in learning English. When enrolled in the program the student as mentioned above is required to take the WESTELL test. This test must be administered twice a year during the first year in the ESL program. And once a year every year after that. This is one form. An example of a non formal way is to keep a portfolio of the student which includes examples of their work throughout the year and set a time to go over the work to see what areas, if any, need to be improved.
The teachers are informed of the ELL language proficiency status through test scores of the WESTELL. The students are also given an ESL teacher that they may spend one on one time with during the week. The progress of these meetings are discussed amongst the classroom teacher and ESL teacher.
I have not had any direct experience with ELL students, but I have conversed with a select few who currently have ELL students. A classroom teacher told me that she had to take it one day at a time to see which areas the student needed work with. The student was very strong in all areas except language. The teacher gave vocabulary words or sight words to her class once a week. The regular education students received ten words per week. The ELL student received four to five words per week and was then able to study thses words with her ESL teacher for further instruction.
A computer teacher in which the students do monthly rotations modified her lesson plans for ELL students. The students are required to do listening and writing activities on the computer. Some ELL students did not know the alphabet so during their computer time they began with alphabet lessons then worked their way up to the grade level they were supposed to be in.
There are many important factors to consider when you have a student whose primary language is not English. It is essential as an educator to have goals for yourself and your student to achieve the highest levels of learning.