Delaware News

School district has multiple avenues for ESL students

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Students whose first language is not English may require another journey when they enroll in Delaware schools, but district leaders say the process helps students and their families acclimate as quickly as possible.

When a student enrolls in the district, the family fills out an informational sheet called the Home Language Survey at the administrative building.

When the family lists a language other than English, the parents are given the option of requesting a language evaluation to see if their child qualifies for extra services, such as English as a Second Language courses.

If the family agrees, the student is given an assessment in reading, writing, speaking and listening, said Elizabeth Diemer, K-6 ESL teacher.

"The assessment is to see if there are any language gaps that may cause problems with their ability to work at grade level," Diemer said.

If there are, then the student is enrolled in ESL classes, pending parental approval.

There are different levels of ESL students, starting with prefunctional/basic beginning English, which means the student knows little or no English. Students at the intermediate level may speak English at a social level, but don't have the reading and writing skills they need to perform at grade level.

Advanced means they are able to participate fully with little intervention, and full English proficient means they need no support.

"Students develop social language skills first, then the more complex academic language skills," Diemer said. "Newly enrolled students come from a variety of languages, countries and educational backgrounds.

"Some students will need extensive language support, and others may just need more general academic assistance."

There are two ESL specialists in the district: Diemer teaches grades K-6, and Diana Russell teaches grades 7-12.

"Our students speak a variety of languages: Chinese, Polish, Spanish, Tagalog, Arabic, Vietnamese, Somali and several other African languages," Diemer said.

"Many of our students were born in the United States, but their parents speak other languages at home."

There are other resources in the school district that are available to ESL students and their families, such as those provided at the Woodward Family Resource Center.

Ohio Wesleyan University provides interpreters for families and staff, when needed, as does the Ohio Hispanic Coalition.

"We also have a Language Line service, which means we can call up and have an interpreter on the line when we need one," Diemer said.

She said when parents are invited to conferences and events, a translator is provided if necessary.

"Most of our parents take advantage of this and we have excellent parent participation at school conferences and events," she said.

Diemer said school librarians have bilingual books available for both students and parents, and the Family Resource Center, next door to Woodward Elementary School, hosts ESL classes. Many parents take the classes while their children are in school.

"Every effort is made to help the students and families feel comfortable at their new school," Diemer said. "If students need additional help, they are sometimes referred to the extended learning opportunities offered at the various schools."