English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is a state-funded instructional program for eligible English Learners (ELs) in grades K-12. The program is designed to help ELs develop academic and social English language proficiency. Georgia is a member state of the WIDA Consortium.
ESOL teachers integrate the WIDA English Language Development Standards (ELDs) with the Georgia Standards of Excellence. Using state-approved ESOL delivery models (Push-in, Pull-out, and Sheltered Courses), ESOL teachers collaborate with regular education teachers to differentiate standards-based instruction. They provide proficiency-appropriate scaffolding and language supports that will help ELs develop communicative confidence and skills in each of the four language domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Regular education teachers also accommodate these student’s instructional and assessment needs, providing a culturally-responsive classroom environment where ELs first language and culture are valued and where they feel safe to participate in and can take full advantage of all learning opportunities.
Criteria for Program Eligibility
The WIDA Screener or Kindergarten Screener is administered to students who meet the following criteria on a Home Language Survey:
- The language best understood and spoken by the students is not English.
- The language spoken most frequently by the student at home is not English.
- The language adults in the home use most frequently when speaking with the student is not English.
The WIDA Screener or Kindergarten Screener score determines if a student qualifies for ESOL services (See detailed eligibility flowchart on website).
From January to February, all English Learners take the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs 2.0® test to measure their academic listening, speaking, reading, and writing proficiency levels and growth. A student’s ACCESS Composite Proficiency Level determines continuation or termination of ESOL services. ACCESS proficiency levels are also used to assist schools leaders and teachers in grouping ELs for instruction, scheduling ESOL services, informing RtI determinations, and guiding the Testing Participation Committee in the choice of accommodations.
ESOL Program Beliefs & Goals
The mission of Whitfield County Schools is to increase student learning by providing students and staff with meaningful, challenging, and engaging educational experiences in a safe and supportive environment. We believe that staff should have a unified focus and that our students are the ultimate beneficiaries of our common effort. We also believe that teachers are instructional leaders and designers of learning experiences which are tailored to the unique learning and motivational needs of our particular group of students. Parents and community personnel also are a vital part of our work, and we believe that all students deserve a safe, non-threatening learning environment where they are treated with dignity and respect. English Learners are certainly among the beneficiaries of this conceptual framework.
The education of English Learners is a shared responsibility among the regular education teacher and ESOL teachers. Collaboration among teachers and administrative support/leadership are all necessary ingredients for student success. In order to provide high quality and effective instruction to English Learners, we believe that both their English development needs and academic content needs must be considered by effectively scaffolding instruction. Program effectiveness is based on a continual improvement model where current practices are evaluated in response to student achievement data. Program improvements incorporate those practices deemed most effective in the professional body of research. For this reason, on-going professional learning opportunities are essential for all educators who interact with English Learners.
The district complies with all state and federal guidelines related to the education of English Learners. While we understand that compliance is a necessary factor, we consider such compliance to be the minimum expectation. We seek continual improvement because we invest in the lives of students and wish to offer the best practices available to English Learners because we believe that their education leads to increased opportunities in the future.
While it is possible that some districts might view English Learners as being deficient in language skills, we take the additive view that ELs enrich the curriculum for all students by adding a global perspective to classroom discussions and learning tasks. Though ELs sometimes lack the prior knowledge that we expect based on our own cultural perspectives, they offer a rich dialogue regarding experiences that bring our curriculum to life. The presence of ELs also challenges our teachers to continually improve their instructional methodology and by doing so, all students benefit from the research-based methods in place.
The goals of the ESOL Program are to value and build upon students’ academic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds; provide a supportive learning environment; assist students in reaching their full academic potential; build connections between ESOL and school-wide instructional programs; encourage participation of students and their families within the school and community; and to foster understanding and appreciation of diverse populations within the school and the community.
Additional ESOL information is available at the GA Department of Education website.