Departments: English Language Learners
Introduction to K-12 English Language Education (ELL) in Arlington, MA
For additional information, please contact Director Carla Bruzzese by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 781-316-3662.
Over 33 languages (and thus, cultures and schooling experiences) are represented among Arlington's students and their families. Across the nine schools, linguistic diversity ranges from about 6% to 27%. About 11% of students in the public schools in Arlington speak a first language that is not English. Many families are literate and fluent in English and are professionals or visiting professors at local universities. Other families are in transition, may be separated from familiar customs, friends and family, and may feel isolated or confused. Over half of enrolled ELL students in the district were born in the U.S.
There are about 200 students K-12 enrolled in the Arlington ELL program. An additional 100 students are recent "graduates" of the program and are followed closely for two years after they exit the program. The ELL program is provided in each of the 7 elementary schools and in the middle and high schools. ELL staff work in close contact and collaboration with other teachers and specialists in the school.
The ELL program design follows state recommendations for time allocations for different proficiency levels and ages of ELL students. Our program also requires specific curriculum content, guided by state and district standards. There is a substantial amount of assessment required by the MA Department of Education; the development of the four skills areas of language learning are carefully monitored (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).
Introduction to ELL for ELL Families
For families new to Arlington's schools, please contact the nearest school for registration information (information such as telephone numbers can be found on the district and individual school websites). If you speak a first language other than English, the office staff of that school will contact the district ELL Department so that we can offer English language testing and program placement to those children enrolling in school. If you need an interpreter for school purposes, please tell the office staff at your child's school or contact the ELL office.
We encourage parents to take an active role in the education of their children and in their school community while in Arlington. If parents feel uncomfortable helping their child with homework or other tasks in English, they can support literacy development and other aspects of learning in the home language. Also, parents are urged to seek additional resources for learning at their individual school and across the community. Arlington's public libraries offer a range of resources and activities for families. There are numerous helpful websites for English learning as well; a resource list for ELL parents is maintained at the ELL office.
Teacher and Staff Orientation to ELL
Linguistic and cultural diversity in the classroom brings both challenges and great rewards. Diversity in instructional settings invites teachers to adjust their thinking about all aspects of teaching, from communicating with parents for whom English is not their first language to accessing students' varied experiences and backgrounds in order to locate "entry points" for instruction.
ELL students and their families arrive in Arlington during the summer and throughout the school year. Upon enrollment at the neighborhood school, the ELL teacher is contacted to perform the required language assessment for possible ELL needs. The parent/guardian is then informed of the need for services and may accept or decline. This entry point is critical in anticipating the programming needs of a potential ELL student. Both the language assessment and parent enrollment documentation should be located in the ELL student folder for your information.
It is essential to know which of your students are ELL (English Language Learners). There are some ELL opt-outs whose parent/s decline ELL program services, FLEP (former English Language Learner), or LOE (Language-other-than-English but identified as proficient in English.) These various groupings need to be reported by the school for state testing and other data purposes.
English Language Learners (ELL) Department
Arlington maintains an English Language Learner (ELL) Program at each school. We are in compliance with state and federal requirements and guidelines for instruction, teacher certification, and programming.
Your most readily available resource is the ELL teacher in your school. There are electronic resources to provide extensive, current, and accurate background knowledge on nearly any country or culture you may encounter in your class (Other websites are available through the ELL Department and the MA Department of Education). Often, the most helpful source for learning about your new student is his/her own family. If you need an interpreter for a parent meeting, do not hesitate to contact us.
ELL Program Design
Each proficiency group (Beginning, Early Intermediate, Intermediate, Transitioning/Advanced) follows requirements for ELL instruction. In Arlington, ELL students in grades K-5 are generally taken out of their classrooms for ELL (or ESL) instructional time, often during literacy times in the mainstream classroom. English as a second language (or ESL) teaching is embedded in district content topics such as weather (science), coins and shapes (mathematics), and biographies of famous people in U.S. history. In addition to academic language, children are constantly exposed to social language in all school contexts.
At the secondary schools, beginning ELL students participate in ELL for their English credits (aligned/"bridged" to standards for ELA, English Language Arts) as well as additional time for learning academic content vocabulary, reading and writing for academic purposes, and ELL strategies. In addition to taking regular education English, Intermediate and Transitioning/Advanced level ELL students participate in ELL to strengthen academic vocabulary across the content areas, access or build background knowledge, read for comprehension, and write for different purposes, among other priorities. This "language-in-content" approach is essential to the academic program of each student, regardless of his/her English proficiency or amount of time in the U.S. since ELL students are required to participate in and pass state content tests along with the native English peers.
The ELL program is not part of special education; however, ELL students and former ELL students have the right to special education services, when appropriate. Before referring an ELL for special education testing, all regular education means, including the ELL program and reading and math general education interventions, should be used to support language, literacy, and other gaps in performance. At the school level, attention should be paid to:
Identifying ELL students
The best way to assure academic success for ELL students is to identify them accurately and early, be sure that they have been assessed by the ELL staff so they can receive appropriate language development services, and adjust your teaching to their needs. You should receive an ELL program "Classroom Teacher Intake Summary" form for each new ELL student and for each on-going/returning ELL student. This form provides the following:
ELL/ESL and "Sheltered English Immersion"
"Sheltering" English is a means of modifying curriculum, instructional strategies, assessment, and materials for all levels of English learners in the general education classroom. In MA, all classroom teachers and other professional staff are required by the MA Department of Education to complete 4 categories of SEI, or Sheltered English Immersion.
As a new or experienced teacher in Arlington, you can participate in sheltered (SEI) coursework in the district, through EdCo, and at area universities and other professional development sites. You are expected by the DOE to participate in this critical area of building capacity to work effectively with all learners, including ELL students, on behalf of academic achievement. Please contact the office of the Assistant Superintendent to learn about these opportunities.