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ESOL - English for speakers of other languages


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Mshefa September 19, 2012


We are Hispanic, but speak English fluently and live in Virginia. My daughter was placed in the ESOL program and I am debating on pulling her out. Just wanted to see what other parents in a simalar situation think?

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crusoe September 24, 2012


Flyfisher- I hear you, but if someone does something out of line, that is a little outside my point. I've been at public/private schools, both k-12 & college and I've never witnessed such as you stated- not say it doesn't happen. If a kid is placed by looks,etc that's a problem. Conversely, deciding not to place a kid because of what someone THINKS about her English level is also bad. My point was when tested, a parent has REAL test scores to look at. If a kid doesn't score high enough, then she doesn't score high enough. That is info to help the parent know their kid's ACTUAL English level, not some vague gauge of her talking ability. Ask to see those REAL scores and go from there. Mshefa (or whoever) needs to look at English exam scores to measure English levels. If the test says X, then yes, the child/student likely needs language support. If the testing says Y, then the kid should not be placed in ESL. There's an end of the year test as well to show levels....either she passes or she doesn't. Again, that is black/white to me. In or out. Fluent or not fluent.

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faithfstephens September 23, 2012


Our daughter was simply born in Germany to American parents. Her first language has always been English, but because of the fact that she was born overseas we received a call from the ESOL teacher at her new school in MD. In my opinion.. it all boils down to federal dollars.. the more ESOL students, the more federal dollars come in.

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fly_fisher September 23, 2012


Crusoe, how wrong you are. Read this and you'll see why.

Mshefa - get her out of the ESOL program. If she's fluent English, it'll do her more harm than good.

Here's my story:

We live in a small school district (less than 12 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 2 high schools) in a large city on the west coast.

I'm white, speak native English and JLPT Level Two Japanese. I also understand a little Vietnamese and speak a very little, with poor pronunciation. My wife is a native Vietnamese speaker who speaks fluent but lightly accented English.

When we moved into this district two years ago and filled out the survey that asks questions about ethnicity, languages spoken in the home, stuff like that, we truthfully answered that English and Vietnamese are spoken in our home, but primarily English (and a little Japanese that I've taught our kids).

Both of our school-aged children are above grade level readers (our 9 year old is in 5th grade and had a 10th grade reading level at the end of 2nd grade; our 8 year old is in 4th grade and isn't as good as her older sister but is a couple years above grade level). Both score in the advanced range on the STAR test. When we moved into this district, our younger daughter (entering 2nd grade at the time) was put in the list of kids needing English Language Development, despite her perfect score on the assessment test.

Her teacher was skilled and wise enough to see that that was ridiculous and never sent her to ELD sessions. When I noticed ELD on the report card and asked about it, she said that she didn't know why, but had a friend at the district office and would see what she could find out.

A couple weeks later, the response from the district was that it was because Vietnamese was spoken in the home. They didn't really have any explanation as to why only one of our kids was put into ELD - but I do. A theory, anyway.

Our eldest daughter looks totaly like a white kid; you'd never know she's half Vietnamese took look at her, unless you study her eyes really closely and have seen a lot of "half" kids. She has medium brown slightly wavy hair, a very caucasian looking nose, whiter skin than mine, everything about her looks white.

Her younger sister is totally the opposite. She looks completely Vietnamese and it's very hard to tell that she's half white. She has dark skin, completely Asian eyes, very dark brown hair (nearly, but not quite, black). Her nose is slightly narrower and higher than most Vietnamese kids' noses, and the hair is a subtle giveaway, but even many Vietnamese don't pick up on it right away. We've met a lot of people who initially thought that our kids looked like one each from prior marriages, and the third one - who clearly looks half white and half Asian - was one that we had together. They're suprised to learn that neither of us has a prior marriage and they're all our biological children together.

And therein lies my theory: she was put in ELD not because she in any way needed it, but because she looks Asian and a language other than English is often used in our home, although neither of them speak Vietnamese nearly as well as they speak English, and they can't read it at all. Her sister was not put in ELD because she looks like a white kid.

Veryshoe also has an excellent point, and it may apply to us as well: they may have put her on the EDL list hoping she'd drag up some of the other students. That school has two distinct student bodies: the primarily Asian students who nail the STAR test every year and just among themselves would have an API way over 900, and the other student body, which drags the API down. They meet in the middle about 840. The curriculum is geared toward the second group, at the expense of the first.

What did we do? We voted with our feet and put our kids in Catholic school in the 2011-2012 school year. It's costly and requires a lot of sacrifice, but the quality of the education they're getting there is worth it.

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crusoe September 22, 2012


a couple of things: #1 kids are not just randomly placed in ESL because of this or that. The law requires students with a non- english background be tested. #2 if they don't pass a basic exam, they are then placed in ESL. If your child couldn't pass that exam, they are missing language skills & vocabulary. That's a positive for you to know, not some kind of scarlet letter. Also, people, regular teachers, parents often say my child can talk English great, they use it all the time. Sure and that's great, but regular talk is the easy part... what is their REAL academic vocabulary, reading and writing ability? That's what they're lacking.... how well someone talks in everyday chit-chat is NOT an indicator of their academic abilities, which is the reason for ESL. As to classes, a good program has leveled classes....beginning students should NOT be with intermediates and highs.

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Mommyneedsanap September 20, 2012


I agree with the other poster; it sounds like a bad place for your daughter. I teach Englsh at a community college and have also taught ESL, and I see first-hand the ill effects of bilingual Spanish and ESL/ESOL schooling on students who have gone through those programs. Almost inevitably, they end up not reading or writing well in either English or Spanish. I will say that I am n California and that overall our public schools are very poor, and I teach in a rather deprived area, so no doubt that influences what I observe; I know that VA public schools are supposed to be very good, generally. Still, it doesn't sound to me like there is any reason for your daughter to be in that class.

Talk about stereotyping, too--you both speak fluent Englsh, but the school thinks your daughter needs ESOL simply because you're Hispanic? I know many Hispanics who've been here two, three or more generations (including me--I am half Latina). Hispanic should not automatically equate to "ESL."

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veryshoe September 20, 2012


O-U-T. We're bilingual Spanish too. My son's English was a little weak when he started school here and he was in ESL. He benefitted from probably a couple weeks. Anything more was retarding his development. I was on the other side of the equation too. As a TESOL instructor for K-12, I saw firsthand that the students with more fluency in English were just used to pull up those who were farthest away. It's really inevitable- the kids befriend each other and the instructor is trying to involve every student, so each kid ends up learning at the most lukewarm level. Also, be warned that your school putting her in ESOL may fall short on respecting or understanding linguistic and cultural diversity. I mean, you did say "fluent English." If she does need a little more, I would just get her an after school tutor or some smartypants gringo friends. Very effective.



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