ESL requirements for Public School

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Child speaking 3 languages entering kindergarten

April 2011

My son is entering kindergarten this September and now it is time to fill out the paperwork to register at the school. Regarding to the survey of the child's spoken languages, I have some doubts. We are a multiracial family and my kids are raised in an environment with multiple languages, each parent speaks his/her native language and the children use English at preschool/outside home. I have heard people said that it is better to just say that your kid uses only English both at home and outside, to avoid the ESL class and some unreasonable tests regarding to their language ability. I know there are many families out there like us, please share with us your experience. About the ESL class, is it really such a nuisance as they described? Is it really helpful and not just a waste of time? If a child is categorized as an ''English learner'', how is he/she qualified to return to the normal class with other peers? Multilingual mom

I don't know if it has changed much but as a kid, my parents put a language other than English for me when I first started Kindergarten in the US. We spoke English as well as our native language but English was not our primary language spoken at home. So, my parents answered truthfully. By 1st grade - someone - not sure if it was a teacher or a counselor or what but they said to my parents - just put down English on the application next time because I did not need to be put in an ESL class. ESL class is basically remedial English..meaning its for people who have a poor understanding of English. When we first came to the US - I could barely speak English but understood enough and since I was a kid - like a sponge, learned quickly. I'm in my 30's now and hope to have a multilingual kid as well (although right now he is only bilingual) and when it comes time for me to fill out those applications - I'll simply put English. It does not have anything to do with the ability to know multiple languages -which is a great feat - its simply a way for the schools to know at what level your kid can grasp or understand basic English- whether to put them ahead or keep them back because they have a ''handicap''. In my opinion, a 5 year old who can speak/understand English along with other languages should not have to be put in an ELL/ESL class because it would only hold them back (some). Anon


Mandatory ESL testing for bilingual kids in public school?

Feb 2002


I wonder if anyone has heard that California law requires a school district to conduct mandatory English Language Proficiency Testing for children who come from homes where a language other than English is spoken (as determined by the language used by parents), a test that does not require prior parental consultation.

We are a professional couple and recently moved into the Lamordina area. Within 2 weeks after school started, our daughter was pulled out from her classroom by the ESL teacher to undergo an English proficiency test. Our daughter passed the test with no problem -- she was born and raised here and English is really her first language. When we queried the school district, we were told that our daughter had to take the test because we had indicated on the school enrollment forms that the parents speak a language other than English at home. (By the way, we deliberatly do that in order to train our children to be bilingual.) And, we were told that prior parental consultation is not mandated by this law.

As far as I know, some school districts do not have this kind of mandatory English proficiency tests. If this is the law, why is it not enforced in every school? Did any other bilingual families out there have a similar experience? Can someone enlighten me on this issue? Thanks. a Bilingual Parent

Hi, I had a terrible experience with this mandatory ESL testing. We speak spanish at home and I innocently indicated this on the form. Not only was my son tested for English proficiency, he failed and was being pulled out of class for ESL classes without my knowledge. I found out after a while totally by acccident. My son spoke perfect English as I'd had him in an English speaking pre-school for a year and a half before he started kindergarden! When I demanded that the ESL pullout stop, I was told I was not allowed to make that desicion. When I talked to the ESL teacher who tested my son, he told me he had talked to my son in English and my son had not answered any questions. (My son was painfully shy at the time). When I asked him if he had asked my son any questions in Spanish (which my son would not have answered either) all I got was some stammered non-explanation and a firm ''you are not allowed to pull your son out of ESL''. I was ready to sue the school district! Fortunately, the teacher is allowed to determine that a child does not need ESL (and my son's teacher thought the whole thing was as outraegeous as I did) and had it stopped! I learned my lesson though! I will never put anything but ''English'' as the language spoken at home on any form ever again and I recommend anyone who does not want to lose control over what goes on with their child at school do the same. This was at a Berkeley elementary school. Anonymous

I am a new teacher, but not an ESL teacher. I am friends with several of the ESL teachers at our school and have a little information on the topic. The head teacher at our school told me that she recommends to her friends who have bilingual children that they not put that information on the forms. This avoids the child being called out of class for testing. Our district automatically tests all kids whose families list any language other than English as primary language, or language spoken at home on the enrollment forms. The reason they do this is because they are required by Federal law to provide English language development classes to the children. Districts are audited and can be fined if they do not comply with the law. By automatically testing kids, they are making sure that kids don't ''fall through the cracks.'' Obviously, there are going to be differences between districts based on their interpretation of the law, and also based on their previous interactions with the Feds. anonymous

We had the same thing happening to us when we arrived in Moraga : I speak French to the kids at home, since birth, and their father English. I was eager to have the kids tested. I thought that if any of their skills was not up to the local standards, this was the perfect time to address it, and have the school district pay for it. It turned out that the kids did not need any extra tutoring. Then in september an other French/American family arrived from France where the kids had been raised. Their second grader who spoke English beautifully, did not read or write it. Within 6 months, and with the support of the ESL teacher, she's catched up brillantly. THe same thing happened with a young Corean girl entering 3rd grade. I have been pleasantly surprised by the interest the other kids have of their classmates different language and culture, and I'm allways happy to get free support for my kids. mother of 3 bi-lingual kids

We live in the Walnut Creek School District, where our daughter is in Kindergarten.

Both my daughter and my neighbor's were given the ESL test last fall because we both indicated during registration that another language, along with English, was spoken at home. My neighbor had a similar reaction to yours, calling to inquire why this was done, and feeling a bit offended by it.

I assume that the district is checking to see if the child needs special help because his/her English skills might not be as strong. As you know, there can be large differences in the fluency levels. Do the parents speak to the child in another language all the time, or do they speak English all the time? Does one parent speak one language, and the other parent another? I'm not familiar with the actual law, but I assume they are looking out for my child's best interests in this case, and this is one of many tests they conduct, along with vision, hearing, etc. Suzanne

I believe the testing is done for the benefit of the child. Some school districts are more pro-bilingual education than others. By testing her, they know she does not need to be in a bilingual class.

When you indicated you speak a different language at home, a lot of times this means the child does not speak very good English and they need to know how best to help the child. Some parents do not teach English as well as the native language.

This was explained to be my my childs principal. I am not bilingual, but I was curious about your question. Her school is a pro-bilingual school so they make sure everyone who needs to be in a bilingual class is in one, hence the testing. Just one way to ensure every child's needs are met. marianne