The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District provides English As a Second Language (ESL) services for students in grades Kindergarten through twelfth grade who are learning English and not yet proficient in English. Each school in the district has one or more ESL teachers working with English Language learners (ELL). The school district serves ELLs of over 50 language groups. The top four languages in the school district among ELLs are 1) Spanish, 2) Korean, 3) Karen, and 4) Chinese.

A student who is an English Language Learner (ELL), enters the ESL Program by a home language survey and administration of the WIDA WAPT English language assessment.

Once in the ESL Program, ELLs receive language instruction to increase their English proficiency. At the same time that ELLs are increasing their English proficiency, they are also encouraged to continue to honor and celebrate their language and culture at home and at school.

At elementary schools (K-5), ELLs participate in ESL pull-out programs, where ESL teachers work with them in a separate setting from 30 minutes to an hour daily. ESL teachers also work with ELLs in the regular classroom through ESL programs such as collaborative teaching with regular classroom teachers.

In the middle schools and high schools, ELLs are scheduled into regular periods of an ESL class. Depending on their levels of English proficiency, some ELLs may take more than one period of ESL. ESL teachers also work within the classroom setting with regular content-based teachers to support and address academic needs of the students.

In supporting ELLs and their families, the school district offers translations and interpreting services. The schools coordinate ELL parent nights and serves as a great source for parents.

Frequently Asked Questions about ESL

What do the letters mean? 
ESL = English as a Second Language 
ELL = English Language Learner
LEP = Limited English Proficient

How long does it take ELLs to learn English? 
According to Dr. Virginia Collier, Professor Emeritus of Bilingual/Multicultural/ESL Education at George Mason University and well-respected researcher of education for ELLs, it usually takes ELLs 2 years to learn social language (also known as BICS, Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills), but it takes 4 to 8 years for them to learn academic language skills (also known as CALP, Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). CALP, not just BICS, is what students need in order to achieve at grade level.

Why are ELLs who speak English perfectly still in the ESL program?
Because some students who “sound American” are still in the process of learning how to read and write in English. Listening and speaking skills (BICS) develop fairly quickly, and young children are able to learn to speak a new language without an accent. However, reading and writing skills (CALP) develop much more slowly, especially when the students don’t have literacy skills in their native language to transfer to English.

Should ELLs stop using their native languages at home and use English only?
No, because parents are a child’s first teachers. Learning should continue in the home in the parent and children’s primary language. Imagine if you moved to China and all learning stopped because you were not proficient in Chinese and your parents refused to speak to you in your first language. Imagine trying to learn Chinese from parents who were limited in Chinese. What effects do you think these circumstances would have on your mastery of the Chinese language and your academic progress, not to mention your emotional well-being?

In addition, if children stop using their parents’ native language, it causes enormous problems when the children enter adolescence. Communication between parents and teenagers is difficult enough without a language barrier; when they literally don’t speak the same language, it becomes impossible. The result is that the teens suffer from a lack of parental guidance.

Should parents of ELLs read to them in their native language?
YES!  Literate parents should read to their children in their home language, because it is one of the best ways to support their intellectual development. It will also help the children develop reading skills which they can transfer to English, and cultivate a love of reading and learning.

Activities for children outside of school

Links for Parents