English Language Learners (ELLs) must communicate for academic, social, and instructional purposes within the school setting. The ELL student needs to communicate for information, ideas, and concepts necessary for academic success in the area of communication arts, mathematics, science and social studies. “Mastery of academic language is arguably the single most important determinant of academic success; to be successful academically, students need to develop the specialized language of academic discourse that is distinct from conversational language” (Francis, Rivera, Lesaux, & Rivera, 2006, p.7). With support, ESOL students will be able to adequately communicate to meet their needs for most day-to-day interactions.
As of the fall of 2010, all Missouri public school districts are required to align English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) standards with the WIDA English Language Proficiency Levels. The English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards address six levels of English language proficiency. These levels, defined as movement along a continuum, describe what ELLs can do within each language domain of the academic standards for designated grade level clusters. The levels are:
- Entering the new language acquisition process
- Beginning the new language acquisition process
- Developing listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English
- Expanding the listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills needed to communicate in English
- Bridging to a level comparable to that of other English-proficient peers
- Reaching the end of the language acquisition continuum.
Linguists believe it can take an English Language Learner up to five to seven years (depending upon former English language exposure) to reach the English proficiency level of their peers. The WIDA Consortium recognizes that English proficiency grows in two strands: social language and academic language. With that in mind, the WIDA English language proficiency standards are organized into a series of matrices to address both social/instructional language development and the content area standards (language arts, math, science, and social studies) as well as to reflect the four language domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and language proficiency levels. Proficient students are monitored by the ESOL teacher for two years after they exit the ESOL program.
For more information on WIDA see links category on right.