English as a Second Language (ESL)
The English as a Second Language Program has serviced districts in Allegheny County for more than 25 years. The Program serves children who come from all over the world and helps school districts build the bridge that connects students' new language acquisition skills in English to what they bring culturally and linguistically from their homeland. Almost all of the forty-two school districts in Allegheny County have experienced yearly growth in their ESL populations. This growth is expected to continue and increase in the future as well. It is the mission of the ESL Department to coordinate efforts with the school districts to best serve the needs of their students. This can be done in a variety of ways: student evaluations, educational service, instruction, consultation, and program compliancy. The Program goal is to work with districts to meet the demands of the population and to help the district and the English Language Learners bridge the success of their first language with their newly acquired English language.
The growing numbers of racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse students enrolled in the public schools create the need for instructional interventions, adaptations, and accommodations. English as a Second Language (ESL) programs that include assessment, instruction, and consultation are a promising way to ensure students' academic and social success. The 2012-2013 AIU K-12 ESL Program includes over 700 students from more than 20 school districts in Allegheny and Butler Counties as well as charter and cyber charter schools. The students currently enrolled in the program represent over 72 different languages. The student populations include: refugees and immigrants who are relocating permanently to the United States; children whose parents have come to the area on business or are participating in university or hospital exchange programs; children of a family member learning or teaching a skill or trade; students who were born in United States but come from a home where little English is spoken; and internationally adopted students.
When a school district refers a student for ESL, the student is first evaluated to determine English language proficiency. Formal evaluation services cost $210.00. The program then recommends the number of hours of instruction that would be most appropriate for the student based on state guidelines. The school district liaison receives periodic evaluation reports on all ELL students. At the end of each semester, parents of K-12 ESL students receive a report card regarding their child's academic progress. Each child in the program takes a statewide assessment to chart Annual Yearly Progress for No Child Left Behind regulations to determine their growth and proficiency for the next academic year. The instructional time is invoiced to the districts. This invoice includes teacher preparation and instruction.
Approximately 50 teachers are employed in the AIU K-12 ESL Program. They are all certified teachers who hold an Instructional I or II Teaching certificate. All teachers who teach ESL have obtained a Program Specialist Certification in ESL. The AIU ESL instruction is a pull out program, presented in English. The teachers receive specific professional development related to current research and best instructional practices in teaching non-English speaking students. The teachers do not need to be proficient in the students' native language, but know specialized language acquisition theory and techniques for making unfamiliar language comprehensible to students.