Each year new students from other cultural backgrounds enroll in Goshen Community Schools. GCS has the largest English Language Learner (EL) program in the state of Indiana for a school district of its size.
The goal of the EL program is to help students from other language backgrounds learn and use English effectively, ensuring all students acquire knowledge and apply skills and enhancing tomorrow’s opportunities, while continuing to honor their cultural heritages.
While most EL students in Goshen speak Spanish as their primary language, the program also includes children whose first languages are Japanese, Khmer, Marshallese, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, French, German and Cantonese as well as others. Currently, the program serves Goshen High School, Goshen Middle School, and the seven elementary schools.
What is EL Instruction?
EL instruction is an instructional approach which requires specific and appropriate second language development goals and objectives, methodologies, instructional materials, and performance assessment instruments. The EL curriculum runs parallel to the standard curricula. EL is not a remedial or compensatory program and does not re-teach content and skills previously taught to the students in English. Instead, it is a discipline which integrates students into the English-speaking community and school by providing access for learning content and thinking authentically in English. EL instruction seeks to make the curriculum of the classroom accessible to EL students at their English Language Proficiency level.
At the elementary level, EL teachers collaborate with mainstream teachers, using the curriculum of the classroom as a vehicle for language acquisition. Beginning level students are pulled out for basic English vocabulary instruction. The middle school and high school both offer sheltered English content area classes for students who speak no English at all. Once students have acquired enough English to join mainstream classes, they continue attending EL classes for English, reading, and writing and receive assistance in their content area classes.
Many immigrants must adjust to a different type of educational system in addition to learning a new language and getting to know the community. Parent liaisons at each school facilitate communication between schools and families. This home/school communication link includes:
- Referrals for home visits from principals, nurses, and guidance counselors
- Interpretation services for home and school oral communication
- Translation of notes sent to students’ homes
- Parental support and education
EL staff provide classroom teachers with ideas on how to modify curriculum and assessment for EL students. They maintain regular contact with the classroom to coordinate EL lessons with the curriculum of the mainstream classroom. EL teachers also can provide school personnel with information on the diversity and rich cultural backgrounds of the EL students within GCS.
Myths and Facts
Myth: “Those students don’t need an EL program. If they listen and pay attention in class, they should be able to learn English without a special EL teacher. Besides, they understand their friends on the playground and English television programs. “
Fact: Language acquisition research indicates that learners acquire a second language not through being exposed to the language, but rather through “comprehensible input.” This means that the English language learner understands the communication. Classroom strategies such as using lots of visuals and models, pre-teaching of vocabulary and concepts by the EL teacher, and cooperative learning ensure that the students understand the classroom input which is much more complex than the playground or TV.
Full proficiency in English cannot be assessed solely on the basis of social, day-to-day language that is based on everyday situations and face-to-face communication. Students are required to use academic language in all of their content area classes. Research shows that the language proficiency needed to be successful in academic classes without additional help may take from five to seven years to develop.
Myth: “If the Latino students are allowed to speak Spanish, they will never learn English. Shouldn’t they be banned from speaking Spanish on the school grounds?”
Fact: Successful language learners tap into their first language skills in order to learn the second language faster. It is stressful to be immersed in a second language all day in an academic setting. Speaking the first language allows those students to take a short rest from the stresses of listening, speaking, reading, writing and comprehending a new language and content.
Myth: “I know EL students who still don’t speak English correctly even after they have had EL help. Is the EL Program really helping the limited English proficient students? “
Fact: A longitudinal study of the GCS EL students shows that they are gaining a minimum of one level of English proficiency each year. There are five levels of English proficiency: Level 1 (beginner); Level 2 (early intermediate); Level 3 (intermediate); Level 4 (advanced); Level 5 (fluent). The EL staff works hard to ensure that all EL students reach full proficiency in English in the shortest time possible. Sometimes a student will be delayed because of his/her educational background or ability to learn.
Myth: “Are the EL students keeping the Goshen Community Schools from reaching the goals required by the state Department of Education and the federal government?”
Fact: No. EL students are required to be assessed on ISTEP+ like all other students regardless of how much English they have learned and are held to the same standards of performance as their native English speaking peers. In the 2008-2009 school year, the EL subgroup achieved AYP at the corporation level. Goshen Community Schools must meet Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) which measure how much English students have learned in two additional areas: increased scaled scores on the LAS Links English language proficiency test and increased fluency levels on the same test. For the 2008 – 2009 school year, Goshen received a “Yes” in both areas.
Trends in Local EL Population
The current population of EL students is holding steady at around one third of the student body. While all these students speak a language other than English as their native language, many of them have become fluent English speakers as well.
Trends in National EL Population
The number of K–12 students in the United States who are identified as being LEP has grown by nearly 650,000 in the past three years and is now approximately 4,985,000.
LEP students speak more than 400 different languages, including languages from outside the United States (e.g., Asian, European, and African languages) and inside the United States (American Indian languages). Nearly 80 percent of LEP students speak Spanish; another 5 percent speak Asian languages.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates that the national sample of LEP students have improved their performance in the content areas of mathematics and reading or language arts. For mathematics, the percentage of fourth- and eighth-grade LEP students who scored at or above the basic level was higher in school year 2007 than in any previous year. For reading, the percentage of fourth-grade LEP students who scored at or above the basic level was higher in 2007 than in 2005; eighth-grade LEP students showed no increases from 2005.
In school year 2005–06, 24 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico reported that they reached their targets for LEP students making progress in ELP, while 28 states reported that they met their targets for LEP students attaining proficiency in the English language.
During school year 2005–2006, officials in 31 states and the District of Columbia tracked the continuing education progress of more than 312,000 students who were formerly classified as LEP; 86 percent of these students scored at the proficient level or above in mathematics and 99 percent scored at the proficient level or above in reading or language arts.
(From: The Biennial Report To Congress On The Implementation Of The Title Iii State Formula Grant Program School Years 2004–06)