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Frequently Asked Questions about ESL/ELD

Frequently Asked Questions about ESL/ELD

Will students in ESL/ELD classes graduate at a later time than their peers? 

Most students enrolled in ESL classes complete graduation requirements in the same time-frame as their peers. Some students do require more time to acquire a sufficient level of English to succeed in their courses. However, a notable portion of non-ESL students also need more time to complete all graduation requirements. It is important to note that each individual’s learning needs and lifelong learning goals means that the duration of their education varies. Some students finish their schooling earlier than others or later than others regardless of being an ELL or an ESL/ELD student.

My child speaks English well, so why were they recommended ESL classes?

Decisions about the course recommendations of a student in any program should be made jointly with parents/guardians and school staff. It is required that parents/custodians are notified of these decisions. In the event that a parent/guardian is unsure about why their child/ward was recommended for an ESL course, the student’s teacher, guidance counsellor, and/or principal should be contacted for clarification. It is critical that all information needed to make decisions about a child’s education is made available, and accessible. Parents should know they can ask about learning pathways, programming and/or any decisions pertaining to their child/ward’s education. 

It is also important to note that language consists of several components. For example, while a person may be very strong in their listening and speaking skills, they may need to develop other aspects of the language such as their writing and reading abilities. Therefore, a student may be recommended an ESL/ELD course to develop particular language skills to meet grade-level expectations. Parents/guardians should feel comfortable and confident in discussing the benefits of ESL/ELD programming with teachers and the school principal.


How long will it take for someone to become fluent in English?

The length of time a person takes to learn another language varies from person to person. Studies show that on average it takes a person approximately two years to acquire English fluency for social purposes (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) and 5 to 7 years to reach English proficiency for academic purposes (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). It is important to note that all students learning English are entitled to accommodations to support their English acquisition and learning subject content. 


What are accommodations and who receives them?

Accommodations are different methods a teacher may use to teach or assess student learning. Accommodations are made for many different types of learners, including ELLs and students in the ESL/ELD programs. 

There are three types of accommodations: 

  • Instructional accommodations: When a teacher delivers a lesson and/or gives instructions in different ways to meet students’ learning needs. This may include extra resources given to students to help navigate the language barrier. Some classrooms have word walls, vocabulary banks or assistive technology for students to review and understand learning materials. 
  • Accommodations for assessments: When a test or assignment is structured, organised or shared differently with a student to better address their learning needs or style. For example, instead of writing down an answer, a student may be given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and learning. 
  • Environmental accommodations: The place, location where learning or assessments are taking place may be changed to meet the learning needs of a student. 

When accommodations are made, students are still meeting the same learning outcomes but are presented with various opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills as well as different opportunities to demonstrate their learning. 

All ELLs are entitled to accommodations. Students and parents should feel comfortable to ask questions about accommodations and/or seek different accommodations if learning needs are not being met. 


Who is recommended for the ESL program and/or courses? 

Students who are in the beginning to early stages of learning English are often recommended for the ESL program. This may include students who need support to improve their listening and speaking skills, as well as their ability to read and write in English. ESL support continues to be made available until a student is approaching the level of English acquisition of their grade level or of the courses required for their chosen learning pathway. 

Whether or not a student is in an ESL program, all English Language Learners, individuals whose first language is other than English or have another preferred language, are entitled to accommodations and support to ensure opportunities for success. 


What are the different levels of ESL in the ESL program? Levels of language proficiency?

At the elementary level, ESL support is often integrated into a students homeroom and subject/areas. However, in some situations, students participate in a withdrawal program to work with an ESL teacher in a small group setting to focus on English language acquisition. The elementary level uses the STEPS system to place students in one of six levels. Progress about students’ language acquisition is shared regularly with parents and guardians. 

At the high school level, a school may offer all or some of 5 ESL courses designed to support English language acquisition for social and academic purposes. While all schools strive to meet the learning needs of their student body, some high schools may not offer all five ESL courses. Whether or not a student is in an ESL program, all English Language Learners, individuals whose first language is other than English or have another preferred language, are entitled to accommodations and support to ensure opportunities for success. However, if a parent/guardian feels their child/ward would benefit from taking ESL courses that are not offered at their local school, they should discuss the option of attending another school site with their local school’s guidance counsellor. 


What can I do if I want my child/ward placed in ESL courses and their home school doesn’t offer them?

TDSB schools do their best to offer the students in their communities as many opportunities as possible to help achieve their academic and lifelong goals. In some situations, schools may not be able to offer a full range of ESL/ELD courses. All ELLs, whether they are in ESL/ELD courses or not,  are entitled to accommodations in all learning environments and levels of secondary school. Parents/guardians have the right to choose to send their child/ward to a nearby school that offers the ESL/ELD programming that better suits their child’s unique learning needs. A guidance counsellor should be contacted to discuss these options in further detail. 

However, some students may choose to attend a different school site that offers more ESL courses. Greenwood Secondary School offers ELLs a wide variety of ESL courses and supports for students. For more information, please click here. Students should speak with their families and homeschools about exploring this option further.


What if I do NOT want my child in ESL classes? 

Decisions about a child’s education are always made in collaboration with parents/guardians and with a student’s learning needs and academic goals in mind. It is important to note that ESL/ELD programming is designed to support students to reach their full potential by offering support for English acquisition expected at their grade level or for the courses in their chosen pathway. Most students who are enrolled in ESL/ELD graduate in approximately the same time frame as their grade-level peers. However, if a student and/or parent/guardian does not wish to be enrolled in ESL/ELD courses, school staff will remain open to further dialogue about a student’s course selections and achievement goals, should it be required.


What can I do to help my child/ward succeed? 

Parents/guardians are partners and integral in delivering effective educational experiences for students. TDSB encourages parents/guardians to initiate and/or continue dialogue with school staff about student safety, achievement, and well-being. Parents/guardians should also feel comfortable letting staff know about their needs and their availability to engage in these critical conversations. For example, parents/guardians can request to be contacted with a translator, via email or after school hours. 

Parents/guardians can also do the following to ensure student success: 

  • Continuing to use and further develop your child’s first language 
  • Read with their child/ward everyday
  • Encourage participation in extracurricular activities
  • Contact and engage with community partners such as local community centres, Toronto public library. For more information about community partners, please click here. (URL needed for Community partner’s page and hyperlink)
  • Work with school staff to discuss additional ways in which their child can be supported to be better informed of a students’ well-being and achievement. 


How can I help my child/ward adjust to their new school? 

Moving and beginning school in a new community can be a difficult transition for everyone involved. It is important to note that this adjustment looks and lasts differently for each individual. Every individual may need different support and resources to help become acclimated to their new community and learning environments. Students, parents/guardians and families can seek resources by reaching out to their guidance counsellors as well community partners. A list of some community partners can be viewed here.


What is the difference between English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Literacy Development (ELD)?

English as a Second Language programming is for students:  

  • Who are born in Canada or are newcomers 
  • Whose first language is other than English or is a variety of English significantly different from that used for instruction.  
  • Who have had educational opportunities to develop age-appropriate first language literacy skills. 

English Literacy Development programming is for students: 

  • Who are newcomers 
  • Whose first language is other than English or is a variety of English significantly different from that used for instruction.  
  • Who may have limited opportunities to develop language & literacy skills in any language and have had limited access to education.  

Teachers or guidance counsellors can help parents/guardians to better understand why a student is placed in either or both of these programs.