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Lower Merion School District



Q: How does a student get placed in ELD?

Upon enrollment, if a student answers with a non-English language to any of the questions on the Home Language Survey, the ELD department is obliged to investigate. If we think the student could be a candidate for ELD, the staff will administer a screener test called the W-APT or WIDA Screener. These tests measure "real world" English that a student will hear during their school day. If they don't achieve a minimum cut off score on these assessments, they are eligible for ELD. We use the W-APT and WIDA Screener to inform placement and scheduling decisions.

Q: Who can be an ELD student?

The target population for ELD is defined in terms of the competency of each student in his or her native language and in English. Any student who may be classified within any of the categories listed below could be provided with ESL instruction:

  • A student, who understands, speaks, reads, and writes his or her native language fluently but does not understand, speak, read or write any English.
  • A student who understands and speaks his or her native language but has limited or no ability to read and write his or her native language and who does not understand, speak, read any English.
  • A student who has limited understanding of spoken English but does not speak it.
  • A student who understands and speaks English on a limited basis but who is unable to read or write English. A student who speaks, reads and writes a non-standard English (i.e. Jamaican or Liberian).

Q: If there are five students who speak five different languages in a classroom, does the ELD teacher need to speak all of them?

In our District, all classroom instruction is conducted in English. Some ELD and content area teachers in the district have foreign language experience, but it is not a prerequisite.

Q: My grandparents came to the US & didn't need ELD. Why do students today need it?

In previous generations, literacy in English wasn't as important to academic success as it is today. We want to equip students with the academic English that they need to thrive in school. State and federal governments recognize this fact, which is why ELD has gained such a high national profile in the last 30 years.

Q: How do you teach large groups of students English when they can't speak it?

This is a complex question, but ELD teachers use a variety of gestures, pictures, and realia to put English into context for the students. In other words, tangible items and graphics help student to mentally transfer the concept from their native language into English. The ELD department and the teacher at your school would be happy to discuss this in more detail.

Q: How long are students in ESL? For their whole school career?

The goal of ELD is not to retain students in the program for the entirety of their school career. Our focus is to provide students with the social and academic English that they need to succeed in mainstream classes. Much research suggests that the conversational English generally comes within two years, while the academic English may take five to seven years. For students with interrupted or no previous schooling, this may take ten plus years.

Q: How do students exit ESL?

The state of Pennsylvania requires a score of 5.0 on the ACCESS test, Tier C, grades of 2.0 (C's) or better, and scores of 'Basic' on the PSSA or grade appropriate standardized testing.