ERIC Identifier: ED279206
Publication Date: 1986-12-00
Author: Dale, Terry Corasaniti
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Limited-English-Proficient Students in the Schools: Helping the
Newcomer. ERIC Digest.
In the 1980's, there is hardly a school in the United States which has not
enrolled some number of limited-English-proficient (LEP) students.
Administrators and teachers throughout the country are striving to meet the
challenge of integrating these students from the beginning into the social and
academic life of their schools.
LEP students and their parents need a network of support to familiarize them
with school routines, to help them understand and comply with school rules and
regulations, to help them take advantage of many school-related services and,
ultimately, to successfully follow their designated course of study. There are a
number of ways in which schools can provide such a network to make the
transition to schooling in the United States easier.
WHAT ADMINISTRATORS CAN DO
One of the most important things administrators can do is to ensure that
information about new LEP students is available to all chool personnel, parents
and students. As the "hub" of the information network, principals, counselors
and office personnel should:
1. Have available names of interpreters who can be called on to help register
students; to work with counselors and teachers in explaining school rules,
grading systems and report cards; and to help when students are called in for
any kind of problem or in case of an emergency. Many school systems have a list
of such interpreters which is kept in the central office. A school can augment
this list or start its own with local business people, senior citizens, college
professors, students, and parents who are bilingual and who are available
before, during or after school hours. Responsible students who are bilingual can
also serve as interpreters when appropriate.
2. Have available for all teachers a list of LEP students that includes
information on country of origin and native language, age, the last grade
attended in the home country, current class assignments and any and all
information available about the students' academic background. Since new LEP
students are enrolled in school throughout the year, updated lists should be
disseminated periodically. School staff who are kept aware of the arrival of new
LEP students can prepare themselves and their students to welcome children from
different language and cultural backgrounds.
HOW THE SCHOOL STAFF CAN HELP
The most important and challenging task facing schools with LEP students is
finding expedient ways to integrate new LEP students into the academic
activities of the school. In most cases, it is nearly impossible for schools to
know in advance how many LEP students will enroll from year to year or to
foresee what level of academic skills students will bring with them.
Nevertheless, school staff need to have a set of well-planned procedures for
placng students in the appropriate classroom, as well as procedures for
developing instructional plans, many of which must be developed on an individual
student basis. School administrators should provide staff with the time and
resources to accomplish this. The following activities are suggested:
1. Assess students' levels of skills (including reading and mathematics) in
their native language.
2. Assess students' English language proficiency, including listening,
speaking, reading and writing skills. (It should be noted here that many school
systems with large numbers of LEP students often have a center where all initial
assessment is done and from which the information may be sent on to the
receiving school. Schools in systems which do not have such "in-take" centers
must complete student evaluation themselves.)
3. When class schedules are devised (particularly in intermediate and
secondary school), schedule slots for classes where LEP students can be grouped
for intensive, special classes in English as a second language and mathematics.
LEP students should not be isolated for the entire school day; however, at least
in the very beginning, the grouping of students according to English language
proficiency or academic skills levels is essential. This is particularly true
for schools with small numbers of LEP students scattered throughout grade
levels. Planning ahead for such special groupings avoids disrupting schedules
during the school year. The participation of school principals and counselors in
this process is essential.
4. Conduct regular information discussion sessions with the school staff and
resource people who know something about the students' languages, cultures, and
school systems in the various countries of origin. Many schools schedule monthly
luncheon sessions where staff who are working in the classroom with the same LEP
students may meet and compare notes. Such discussions usually focus on
appropriate instructional approaches to be used with LEP students, or how to
interpret student behaviors or customs that are unfamiliar to the teacher. These
sessions can be invaluable since they may constitute the only time that staff
have the opportunity to consult one another on issues that are vitally important
to classroom success.
WHAT STUDENTS CAN DO
support network for LEP students is complete only when all students are
included and allowed to help in some way. One way to involve the student body is
to set up a "buddy system" which pairs new students with students not new to the
system. Where possible, LEP students may be paired with responsible students who
speak their native language. These student teams go through the school day
together so that the newcomers may learn school routines from experienced peers
who have gone through the adjustment period themselves.
New LEP students may also be paired with native English-speaking peers. In
this way, LEP students begin to learn survival English at the same time that
they are getting to know other students in the school. As tutors, student
"buddies" may help newcomers with academic work, especially in classes where
extra teacher help is not consistently available.
Teachers should initially establish buddy systems in their own classroms, but
student organizations, such as the student council, foreign language clubs, or
international student groups can help maintain the systems.
A FINAL NOTE: WORKING TOGETHER
Administrators and teachers should encourage LEP students and their parents
to participate in social and academic activities. A good way to get them started
is to invite them to talk about the history, geography, literature and customs
of their home countries in class. Such presentations should be a planned part of
the curriculum throughout the year.
Many schools also plan special school assemblies (or even an entire day) to
celebrate the cultural diversity of the student body or to spotlight outstanding
work done by LEP students. Many other activities may be initiated which give LEP
students and their English-speaking peers opportunities to interact and work
Schools which see LEP students and their families as rich sources of
first-hand information about life in other countries and cultures are very often
the most succesful in helping LEP students to become productive, contributing
members of the school community.
The National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education is a federally-funded
center which provides information on programs, instructional materials, research
and other resources related to the education of LEP students. The Clearinghouse
can also provide information on additional networks of federally-funded centers
that serve school districts with LEP students. Eligibility for free technical
assistance from these centers varies according to funding priorities. For
information, write or call:
National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education 11501 Georgia Avenue, Suite
102 Wheaton, MD 20902 (301) 933-9448 or (800) 647-0123
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Interamerica Research Associates. EDUCATING THE MINORITY STUDENT: CLASSROOM
AND ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES. Rosslyn, VA: Interamerica Research Associates, 1984.
ED 260 600.
Golub, L.S. THE DESIGN, IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION OF A BILINGUAL
PLACEMENT AND MONITORING CENTER. Lancaster, PA: Lancaster School District, 1984.
ED 262 055.
Gradisnik, A., and O. Eccerd (comps.). HELPING SCHOOLS DESIGN AND DEVELOP
BILINGUAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS. Milwaukee, WI: Midwest National Origin
Desegregation Center, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1984.
Lindfors, J.W. CHILDREN'S LANGUAGE AND LEARNING. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980.
Ollila, L.O. (ed.). BEGINNING READING INSTRUCTION IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.
Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 1981.
Ovando, D.J. BILINGUAL AND ESL CLASSROOMS: TEACHING IN MULTICULTURAL
CONTEXTS. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1985.