Mission and Vision
The mission of the Burlington School District English Learner (EL) program is to provide instruction to ensure that ELs gain the linguistic, social and academic skills they need as members of the Burlington school community.
Our vision is that all students learn in a school community that values its multicultural and multilingual student body. ELs access a rigorous academic curriculum and receive support to learn English and achieve at school. We view our students as emergent bilinguals; that is, we encourage students to maintain and even strengthen their primary language(s) while learning English. Current and former ELs are productive members of the Burlington community.
What is the EL program?
EL stands for English Learner. The program provides extra support for students who either speak another language or grew up in a household where English was not the only language spoken. The goal is to bring students to a level of English usage that helps them be successful in mainstream classrooms. Foreign exchange students are not eligible for this program.
The school district currently provides EL services to more than 500 students. More than 900 BSD students come from homes where English is not the primary language. This program previously was called ELL–English Language Learner program–but new federal guidelines under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) now refers to students as English Learners, or ELs. Our current program reflects that change at the federal level.
How are students determined to be eligible for the program?
When parents register students to attend public school in Vermont, they fill out a Home Language Survey. This is a federal requirement of all public schools in the United States. In the Burlington School District, the Home Language Survey is part of the registration process.
If a parent answers a question with any language other than English, the district is required to either seek additional information and/or test the student to determine eligibility for the program.
Once the home language survey determines the student could be eligible, the student is given the MODEL screener. If the student qualifies for EL services, the district has created procedures to place students in the appropriate learning environment as quickly as possible.
What EL programs are available in BSD?
Our district currently has a self-contained program (English Learners Studying Toward English Proficiency, STEP) for elementary students new to the United States. The STEP program, housed at the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler Elementary School, is voluntary for students who score at the beginning level of proficiency and have been in the country a limited amount of time.
Other students eligible for the program could receive push-in, pull-out or co-teaching services.
New arrivals also have special classes at the middle and high school levels, in which teachers try to meet students where they are. Class offerings change based on demand. Sometimes
What happens if my child qualifies for services?
This depends on the school.
At the elementary schools, services can be push-in (meaning the English language specialist works in the classroom with the students’ primary teacher) or pull-out (students are removed from the classroom to receive specialized language help). There are also full-day programs for students new to the country.
At the middle schools, students are scheduled time in the EL classrooms to work with a specialist. The amount of time is dependent upon the student’s proficiency level.
At the high school, depending on the student’s proficiency level, the student may be assigned to sheltered classes taught by an EL teacher. If the student’s proficiency level is high, the student may be assigned only mainstream classes. Sheltered classes are offered in reading, English, social studies, math and science. Offered as a pilot program this year is a co-taught course, in which an EL teacher shares teaching time and content with a mainstream teacher.
What is this federally mandated testing?
Vermont belongs to the WIDA consortium, a group of states that uses the same assessment tools in order to meet federal mandates.
All students who are eligible for EL services will take the WIDA ACCESS for ELs each year. Scores are reported on a 6-point scale. In Vermont, if the student scores below a level 5 overall proficiency level, the student continues to be eligible for services.
Students who score at a level 5 overall proficiency level will exit the program. Exited students are monitored for two years. Schools will continue to watch these students’ progress to ensure success in mainstream classes.
Parents have the right to refuse English Language services. They may not, however, opt out of federally mandated testing, which happens each spring.
How are students placed in schools?
Although we are aware that many countries do not advance students until they have passed benchmark tests, the United States educational system does not work in this fashion.
Students are placed according to their age until they reach high school levels. Students who reach the age of 5 before September 1 begin kindergarten; age 6 is assigned to grade 1; age 7 to grade 2 and so on. In rare cases, a parent may request their child be retained at a lower grade.
When students reach the age of 14 (or older) by September 1, they are assigned to grade 9. If students have records proving passing high school level grades in their home countries, they can meet with guidance counselors to determine which classes can be transferred. This determines the student’s assigned grade.