English for Speakers of Other Languages
The English Learners (EL) Program in Avery County Schools helps emergent bilingual and multilingual students attain English proficiency so that they may be successful in mastering core academic content. Services are provided to English Learners (EL) students at all schools in the district. Students who have recently exited the EL Program are monitored for four years to ensure their continued academic success. The EL Program also offers support and professional development to teachers and staff who work with ELs.
Avery County Schools' Language Instruction Educational Program has been carefully crafted to align with all Title III federal guidelines and state requirements. Students receive varying levels and types of services based upon their individual language needs and academic performance. A Personal Education Plan is developed in collaboration with the EL Coordinator, certified ESL teacher, principal and general education teachers of every EL student. Teachers across the state use the WIDA English Language Development standards in planning and delivering effective, differentiated instruction to EL students.
Did you know?
There are over 140 current EL students (PK-12) in Avery Schools in the 2019-2020 academic year
At least 8 languages (other than English) are spoken by ACS students
Over 10% of ACS families are multilingual
It takes an average of 5-7 years to master academic English
Translation and Interpretation Services
The EL Program offers translation and interpretation services to parents and educators. Please check out our existing translated documents. If you do not find the translation you need or to arrange for an interpreter, please contact Beth Prince or Lara Gil.
Translated Forms and Documents
Dr. Todd Griffin
Director of Federal Programs
ACS Parent Liaison & Language Support
828.733.4911 ext. 2525
ESL Teacher (Newland Elementary, Banner Elk Elementary, Cranberry Middle, and Freedom Trail Elementary)
828.733.4911 ext. 2542
Resources for Educators
English Language Learners in the Classroom
Avery County Schools values the linguistic and cultural diversity that our heritage-language speaking students bring to the classroom. Our goal is to facilitate English language acquisition while honoring students' heritage language, recognizing the advantages of multilingualism in our increasingly interconnected world.
Resources for teachers of English Learners
Identifying English Learner Students
To be completed and reviewed upon initial enrollment. If a review of the HLS shows that the answer to any question is a language other than English, EL office staff must be notified. If the HLS does not list any language other than English, it will be filed in the student's cumulative folder per federal guidelines.
Helping the English Learner Student
Learning a new language is a daunting task. Mastering grade-level academic content while learning a new language can be overwhelming. How can teachers help ELs make the transition?
Understand Your EL Student:
Put yourself in your student's shoes. It can be embarrassing to make mistakes in speaking or understanding the language. Give lots of reassurance.
Speak slowly, not loudly. Use repetition if your student doesn't understand.
Clichés and idioms can be confusing. Direct phrases are best.
Understand that "playground English" is different from academic English. The student who seems to speak English fluently when talking with friends may struggle to grasp the rich academic vocabulary within content areas.
Give them a break! Allow your ELs to speak in their heritage language when on the playground or when being helped by a fellow language-minority student. Communicating in their native language helps ELLs assimilate new vocabulary and feel competent.
Assume nothing! ELs may nod in agreement even if they're not entirely sure what you're saying. Test for understanding by asking them to repeat your instructions back to you.
Celebrate your student's emerging bilingualism! Learn about her culture and encourage her classmates to embrace diversity.
Reach Out to Parents
Educators know that students with involved parents have the best chance for success. Many language minority parents place a high priority on education and sincerely want to help their children excel. They often feel intimidated by cultural barriers, though, and hampered by their own limited English literacy skills.
Special Considerations for Struggling Students
MTSS and the English Learner
Given that English Learners (ELs) are expected to master grade-level content while simultaneously learning a language, it's no surprise that some struggle academically. When a student's struggles are compounded by less-than-native English proficiency, it can be challenging to determine the cause of the difficulties. Are they due to limited mastery of the language of instruction? A true learning disability? A combination of both?
The collaborative problem-solving process can be a useful tool when considering these questions. However, more than usual care must be exercised when interpreting data for EL students. Consider:
"The [problem-solving] process is designed to be hard-data intensive . . . Without normed data from true peer groups (other student peers with similar educational background and level of language acquisition), however, this framework cannot distinguish between second language acquisition difficulties and true learning problems. [Avery County Schools] has no true-peer data and too few EL students at each grade and English proficiency level to collect such data."
"Strong decoding skills can hide a serious weakness in vocabulary [and comprehension], resulting in a student appearing stronger academically than is the fact, or weak English skills may make it appear that a student doesn't understand academic concepts, when the issue is really more one of vocabulary. In any case, comparing EL students' probe results with those of native English speakers can be grossly misleading."
-New Hanover County Schools
ESL specialists are adept at providing informative context for EL students on tiers. They are able to interpret and analyze WIDA data for the problem-solving team, helping the team build a complete and accurate profile of each learner. Strong collaboration between ESL specialists and the team will assist in determining whether an EL student's struggles are a result of limited English proficiency, a true learning problem, or a combination of both.
Avery County Schools' EL department has developed a comprehensive, two-part screening tool to be included in EL evaluations in MTSS. This form is intended to be completed in consultation with an ESL specialist. Click here to download part 1 of the protocol.
References and Resources:
Retention and English Learners
North Carolina State Board of Education policy HSP-N-008 states that students may not be retained for failing to meet academic standards due to English language development levels.
Grade retention is a sensitive and serious issue with long-term implications. While there is no 'one-size-fits-all' answer to this question, research has indicated that "grade retention has numerous deleterious effects on student performance and long-term outcomes, and the empirical evidence fails to reveal any advantages of grade retention" (Jimerson and Renshaw). Please contact the ESL case manager if retention of an English Learner is being considered.