English Learners (EL)

2 students in computer lab

Kirby School District 140 is proud to offer a variety of language support services to meet the needs of our students who come to us with over 41 distinct languages spoken at home. These home languages are a great asset to our District.

If you have any questions regarding D140's English Learners (EL) program, please contact our Curriculum & Instruction Department at 708-532-6462. We would be happy to assist you!

Who are English Learners (ELs)?

EL stands for English Learners. English Learners are students who are learning English as their second language and need assistance in developing the academic language skills required for school.

How many EL students are in District 140?

We have approximately 135 students in our EL program, with top three languages being Arabic, Spanish, and Polish.

How are students identified for the EL Program?

Every child who enrolls for the first time in District 140 is given a Home Language Survey. If the parent notes that the family speaks a language other than English at home, or that the child speaks a language other than English, we are required by the State to screen students for the EL program. Students are recommended to be in the EL program based on the results from the State required English language screener test. The test measures the student’s ability to listen, speak, read, and write in the English language.

What is the EL Program?

District 140 offers an English Learner (EL) program for students who are learning English as their second and need assistance in developing the academic language skills required for school. Our program provides assistance in reading, writing, speaking, and listening using the English language.

How long does it take to learn another language?

The most comprehensive work done in this field is the research conducted by Wayne Thomas & Virginia Collier. Thomas & Collier studied the language acquisition of 700,000 English learners in a longitudinal study from 1982 to 1996. They wanted to find out how long it took students with no background in English to reach native speaker performance (50th percentile) on norm-referenced tests. In addition, they looked at variables such as socioeconomic status, first language, programs used to learn English, and number of years of primary language schooling. In their study, Thomas & Collier found that the most significant variable in how long it takes to learn English is the amount of formal schooling students have received in their first language. They found that it typically takes between 5-9 years to learn another language academically (Thomas & Collier, 1997). It takes 5 years or less for students with a strong foundation in their native language and up to 9 years or more for students who were weak in their native language.

Students in the EL program receive support in their English development and that support is gradually released as the child acquires English and attains higher levels of English proficiency.

Every child is different and regardless of the type of EL program, some students take less than 5 years to acquire English and others take longer.

How do we know that EL students are making progress?

All English learners in K-12 must be assessed annually for English proficiency growth and academic progress. The ACCESS test is used to assess English language proficiency while the IAR test is used to assess academic achievement in English.

As a district we use a variety of academic measures to monitor progress of all learners. In order to make sure students are on track with their learning, we use local assessments to measure growth. The EL teachers and General Education teachers work collaboratively to make sure students are making their growth targets for the year.

How can parents help their children learn?

Students who can speak, read and write in their native language will learn English more quickly. You don’t need to teach reading twice. These native language skills transfer. A well-established native language will help children to learn a new language because they transfer what they know.

Parents can help by:

  • Providing a strong language model at home within the language you feel most comfortable
  • Reading stories to or with your child at home in the native language or English
  • Using your native language to discuss the academic topics like math, science or social science, which are taught at school
  • Being patient. Developing a second language for academics takes time, effort and understanding
  • Taking your child to museums, theaters, libraries, and parks
  • Becoming a part of your child’s educational team
  • Keeping in contact with your child’s teachers and school
  • Encouraging your child to participate in after-school activities
  • Celebrating and acknowledging the growth your child makes in both languages
  • Modeling the advantages of being bilingual

Additional questions?

Please contact our District office at 708-532-6462 or email your student's EL teacher by clicking on their name below.