Standards Seek To Address Needs of ESL Students

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With the number of language-minority students on the rise around the country, most educators at some point in their careers will encounter students whose native language is not English.

A set of standards released here last week is designed to make sure they're equipped to handle the situation.

The voluntary standards from the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages cover the pre-K-12 spectrum. They are designed to help all teachers--not just English-as-a-second-language teachers--help language-minority students gain access to the full curriculum. ("Group To Develop Content Standards for E.S.L. Students," March 23, 1994.)

TESOL officials said the national standards issued for the various subjects in recent years do not sufficiently address the needs of limited-English-proficient students.

"These kids have been very marginalized in the whole standards process," said Deborah Short, a co-director of the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics and a former ESL teacher who helped direct the TESOL project.

The new standards are intentionally broad and are meant to provide a foundation for ESL curricula for pre-K-12 classrooms and for helping colleges and universities prepare teachers to handle the needs of students whose native language is not English.

A number of states, districts, and colleges have begun working with drafts of the standards, according to Susan C. Bayley, the executive director of TESOL. The international group, based in Alexandria, Va., represents roughly 18,000 educators and researchers at all levels, including teachers in U.S. elementary and secondary schools.

Assessment To Come

The ESL standards take into account beginning, intermediate, and advanced English-proficiency levels, list ways of gauging student progress, and provide classroom scenarios that use the standards.

Compiled over nearly six years by more than 100 teachers, the 166-page document is intended to be used in conjunction with specific subject-area standards

While other subjects have grouped their standards by grade level, the ESL standards address students in clusters: pre-K-3, 4-8, and 9-12. English proficiency among students fluctuates from grade to grade and some LEP students have large gaps in their formal education as well, making specific grade-level distinctions less meaningful.

For More Information: Copies of the standards are available for $17 each, plus $3.50 for shipping and handling, from TESOL at (703) 518-2522. They are also available on the Internet's World Wide Web at

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