English learner (EL), a student who is in the process of learning English and requires extra English language support to develop sufficient listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills to succeed in mainstream classrooms. This term is synonymous with English language learner (ELL), which has become less popular.
Other synonyms include:
Limited English proficiency (LEP), another term used to describe students who do not speak English as their primary language. This term has grown out of favor with educators because of its emphasis on limitations rather than possibilities.
English as a Second Language (ESL) refers to the study of English within English-speaking countries by students whose native languages are not English. In most ESL models, English is taught as a subject, with a focus on reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), a term used to describe the study of English by those who speak other languages. The ESOL program aims to develop a student’s English language use within five years of the student entering the program.
English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) describes the parameters that Pennsylvania sets for a student’s progression in language acquisition for social and academic purposes, in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.
Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State to State (ACCESS) is the required assessment test given to all identified English learners upon entering District schools to determine their English proficiency. Developed by the World-Class Instruction Design and Assessment Consortium (WIDA), the ACCESS test is also referred to as W-APT or the WIDA ACCESS Placement Test. The WIDA scale measures EL student proficiency on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest level, indicating exit from the program, 3 indicating sufficient proficiency to participate in mainstream classes with monitoring and support, and 1 and 2 needing the most support. ACCESS testing is also administered yearly to track student progress and English proficiency.
Home Language Survey (HLS) is filled out by parents and guardians at the time of school registration. It elicits information to enable schools to determine which language to use when communicating with families and to determine whether the student needs to be tested for English proficiency.
Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) is a designation at the District’s Newcomer Learning Academy for students who have recently arrived in the United States and are at least three grade levels behind their age group.
Focused Language Study (FLS) refers to part of the state’s mandated approach to English language development, as opposed to immersion in grade-level academics.
Discipline-specific and Academic Language Expansion (DALE), along with FLS, make up the academic approach to encourage English language development for ELs.
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), once called RtII, is a support process for students with academic risks. EL students at levels 1-3 receive specialized instructional strategies from all teachers.
Model Performance Indicators (MPI) represent assessable tasks used by teachers to track a student’s language acquisition level.
Post Exit Monitoring: Once students complete their EL instruction, they will be monitored for two academic years to ensure their continued academic success.
Mainstream classes: Classes for the general population of students who do not require additional English language support to participate in academic classes. As ELs gain fluency and proficiency in English and exit the program, they will attend mainstream classes full time.
English learner programs
Push-in Instruction: An instructional strategy for EL students who are at either a level 4 or 5 language proficiency, where they attend mainstream classes but have support from ESOL teachers, who may tailor instruction and/or devise strategies to support the student.
Pull-out Instruction: An instructional strategy for students below level 4 language proficiency. Teachers will typically remove the student from mainstream classes to prioritize the student’s study in communication skills and language development.
Sheltered Instruction: These are classes that include only English learners, where content-subject classes are taught incorporating an ESOL approach to instructing grade-level curriculum.
Dual language program: A language immersion program that incorporates English learners and native English speakers for instruction in both English and Spanish. This program is offered from kindergarten through 3rd grade at six elementary schools – Cayuga, Alexander McClure, Southwark, Lewis Elkin, Muñoz-Marin, and Bayard Taylor.
Transitional Bilingual Programs or Transitional Bilingual Education (TBP or TBE): Through these programs, the student’s primary language is used to foster academic growth while gradually introducing the student to more English-only instruction. Since 2014-15, this program has been phased out, one grade per year.
Newcomer Learning Academy (NLA) is intended for students ages 14-20 who have been in the United States for less than one year. Students participate in three ESOL classes and take core curriculum courses through sheltered instruction. The NLA is intended to create a nurturing learning environment. The program is currently offered at the Franklin Learning Center.
Itinerant language support: Tutors that employ ESOL techniques in conjunction with general education and ESOL teachers to enhance a student’s learning potential. All tutors are required to be supervised by a certified teacher.
Student and family rights
Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) says that schools are prohibited from releasing personal information concerning a student, including those with undocumented status, to any outside agency without express permission from the student’s parent or guardian.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) is for students who require specialized education services due to a disability. For EL students who have disabilities, , language proficiency will be taken into account when determining their IEP.
LeGare Review Process: Advocacy process that works with high-achieving EL students to apply to special admission or citywide admission high schools.
School District services and resources
Y.S. Stipulation: Established in the ruling in a 1986 class action lawsuit on behalf of Asian students (Y.S., et al. v. School District of Philadelphia), this mandate requires ESOL instruction to be both appropriate and adequate for students to ensure equitable educational access for all EL students and parent communications in the student’s home language.
Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs (OMCP): Directs and implements the ESOL program in the School District with the goal of narrowing the achievement gap between EL students and native English speakers.
Multilingual Assessment Center (MAC): Part of the OMCP, this center works with immigrant and refugee families to acclimate them to the District and to assess students’ potential for ESOL instruction. The center tests potential EL students, determining program and school placement, if applicable, and reviewing foreign high school transcripts to award credits.
Multilingual Family Support Office: Part of the District’s Office of Family and Community Engagement, this office provides support and translation services for multilingual families and students and supervises and directs the Bilingual Counselor Assistant program.
Bilingual Counselor Assistant (BCA) is a District position whose holders serve as linguistic and cultural liaisons between families and school officials. They serve as interpreters, translators, and troubleshooters and facilitate communication between students, families, and schools.
Telephonic interpretation: The School District of Philadelphia’s over-the-phone interpretation service is available to all schools and administrators to facilitate communication in more than 180 languages. Any parent may request language line services at the school to facilitate school communications.
Live interpretation: With at least one week’s notice, the District can provide a BCA to offer in-person interpretation in a selection of languages for meetings, District events, or disciplinary hearings.
Document translation: Any documents requiring translation, including fliers, immunization records, or school forms, can be submitted for translation. Documents already translated into the District’s eight major languages – Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, French, Khmer, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese – can be found on the Multilingual Family Support website at webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/l/language
Welcome wagon: Events and workshops offered through the Multilingual Family Support Office for parents of EL students addressing academic paths in the ESOL program, as well as social and family matters of adjusting to life in the United States.
Multilingual web pages: Web pages have been provided in seven of the eight major languages serviced by the District (excluding Khmer) to provide online access to District information and programs.
-Compiled by Lane Whitman