Frequently Asked Questions
Definition of an English Language Learner

  • How are ESL students identified?

All students complete a home language survey upon initial entry into the school system.  If a language other than English is the answer to any question on the survey the student is identified as Non-English Language Background (NELB) and his/her language proficiency is assessed.  Students who test less than proficient in English are identified as English Language Learners (ELL) and qualify for ESL program services.

  • Why must every NELB student be assessed?

The Bilingual Act of 1988 requires that all students whose first language is other than English be assessed for language proficiency.

  • What if the student speaks English well?  Must this student be assessed?

Yes.  Students must be assessed in all four domains of language – speaking, listening, reading and writing.  Students who can communicate in English may not read or write in English at the level needed for success in school.

  • If a student qualifies for ESL services, do parents have to accept the program?

No.  Once a student has been assessed and qualifies for the ESL program, a parent or guardian may choose to waive program services by signing a waiver form.  One copy of the form is placed in the student’s permanent folder and another in the ESL office files.

  • Does waiving services remove a child from ELL classification?

No.   A waiver only removes the ELL student from ESL program instruction.  All state and federal testing requirements for ELL students remain in place.

  • Are students taught in their native language?

No.  All instruction is in English, not the native language.

  • What do non-English background students need for school registration?

Students will need a birth certificate or other proof of birth date such as a passport or I-94.  They will also need a Tennessee immunization record and proof of where they are residing with their parent or legal guardian in Wilson County.

  • May a student attend school if he or she is living with someone who is not a parent or legal guardian?

Unless the student qualifies as “student in transition”, it is necessary for the student to live with a parent or legal guardian to enroll in school.  Legal guardianship can only be transferred through the juvenile court system.  A power of attorney signed by the parent does not give an individual legal custody of a child.

  • If a student is 18 years old and did not finish school in his or her home country, can he/she attend school in Wilson County?

A student who is 18 years old is considered an adult.  Any new 18-year-old student who has not been enrolled in an American high school will be referred to Adult Education (443-7199).