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What is the EL program?

EL stands for English Learner. The program provides extra support for students who either speak another language or grew up in a household where English was not the only language spoken. The goal is to bring students to a level of English usage that helps them be successful in mainstream classrooms. Foreign exchange students are not eligible for this program.

How are students determined to be eligible for the program?
When parents register students to attend public school in Vermont, they fill out a Home Language Survey. This is a federal requirement of all public schools in the United States. In the Burlington School District, the Home Language Survey is part of the InfoSnap registration form.
If a parent answers a question with any language other than English, the district is required to either seek additional information and/or test the student to determine eligibility for the program. Parents have the right to refuse EL services, however federal laws require EL students be tested each year to determine whether they are making progress in English language acquisition.

What happens if my child qualifies for services?
This depends on the school.
  • At the elementary schools, services can be push-in (meaning the English language specialist works in the classroom with the students' primary teacher) or pull-out (students are removed from the classroom to receive specialized language help). There are also full-day programs for students new to the country.
  • At the middle schools, students are scheduled time in the EL classrooms to work with a language specialist. The amount of time is dependent upon the student's proficiency level.
  • At the high school, depending on the student's proficiency level, the student may be assigned to sheltered classes taught by an EL teacher. If the student's proficiency level is high, the student may be assigned only mainstream classes. Sheltered classes are offered in reading, English, social studies, math and science. 
Parents have the right to refuse English Language services. They may not, however, opt out of federally mandated testing, which happens each spring.

What is this federally mandated testing?
Schools must screen students who are new to the country and are exposed to a language other than English at home, as determined by the Home Language Survey.
Vermont belongs to the WIDA consortium, a group of states that uses the same assessment tools in order to meet federal mandates. 
Students are tested using the WIDA MODEL, which focuses on reading, writing, speaking and listening. (Kindergartners are only tested in speaking and listening the first semester of the year.) Scores are reported on a 6-point scale. In Vermont, if the student scores below a level 5 overall proficiency level, the student is eligible for services. If a student scores a 5 overall, but has less than 4 in reading or writing, the student remains eligible for services. Parents are notified and a schedule is created with the EL teachers.
In the spring, all students found eligible, regardless of whether they are receiving services, will take the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs. Students who score at a level 5 with at least a 4 in reading and writing will exit the program. Exited students are monitored for two years. Schools will continue to watch these students' progress to ensure success in mainstream classes.

How are students placed in schools?
Although we are aware that many countries do not advance students until they have passed benchmark tests, the United States educational system does not work in this fashion.
Students are placed according to their age until they reach high school levels. Students who reach the age of 5 before September 1 begin kindergarten; age 6 is assigned to grade 1; age 7 to grade 2 and so on. In rare cases, a parent may request their child be retained at a lower grade.
When students reach the age of 14 (or older) by September 1, they are assigned to grade 9. If students have records proving passing high school level grades in their home countries, they can meet with guidance counselors to determine which classes can be transferred. This determines the student's assigned grade.

Last Updated: 11/8/16