Language-Minority Students

On August 14, 1990, a Consent Decree was signed in United States District Court on behalf of the State Board of Education and of the plaintiffs who had alleged that the State Board of Education had not complied with its obligations under federal and state laws to ensure that Florida school districts provide equal and comprehensible instruction to limited English proficient (LEP) students. (Office of Multicultural Student Language Education, 1996)

The Consent Decree settlement terms focus on the following six issues:

I. Identification and assessment

II. Equal access to appropriate programming

III. Equal access to appropriate categorical and other programming for Limited English Proficient (LEP) students

IV. Personnel

V. Monitoring

VI. Outcome measures

(Empowering ESOL Teachers: An Overview)

"ESOL instruction" is the instruction to be provided to language minority students (LEP students) based on their level of English language proficiency. (Badia, 1996) Ideal programs serving the needs of language minority students have three principal aims. The first is to help language minority students become proficient in English. The second is to empower them to participate effectively in the core curriculum offered to all students. And the third is to promote students' positive self image and cross-cultural understanding. (Empowering ESOL Teachers: An Overview)

Both formal and informal assessments of primary language proficiency and academic performance should complement English assessment to help establish the correct mix of:

  1. English language development
  2. Primary language academic instruction
  3. Sheltered academic instruction
  4. Mainstream academic instruction
  5. Self-image and cross-cultural instruction

Sheltered academic instruction is designed to make the content accessible to language minority students. It's goal is to allow students to gain English proficiency while achieving in their academic areas. This goal includes the following teacher strategies:

Basic Interpersonal Communication or "everyday conversational language" is different from Cognitive/Academic Language, or the type of language used in classrooms, textbooks and literature. It is much easier for the language minority student to develop Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) than to develop Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). Research shows that most second language learners become proficient in BICS in about 2 years. Becoming proficient in CALP is usually a longer more difficult task. Reading, writing, problem solving and other school tasks require proficiency in cognitive/academic language. The degree of cognitive demand for any given activity will differ for each individual and will depend on the individual's prior knowledge of the topic. Teachers can facilitate the development of CALP by analyzing the language demands of classroom situations and adjusting the dimensions of context and cognitive demand according to a student's level of English, background knowledge and experience.

In addition to language development and the academic core curriculum, all students should receive instruction which promotes a positive self-image and cross cultural understanding. This instruction should be woven throughout the curriculum. It should also use community and student resources and effective home-school partnerships. (Empowering ESOL Teachers: An Overview)


The Florida Education Standards Commission has developed Educator Accomplished Practices for teachers of the Twenty-First Century for the state of Florida. Integrated into these practices are the following ESOL Performance Standards developed by a Florida Committee of ESOL professionals:

  1. Conduct ESOL programs within the parameters, goals, and stipulations of the Florida Consent Decree.
  2. Recognize the major differences and similarities among the different cultural groups in the U.S.
  3. Identify, expose, and reexamine cultural stereotypes relating to LEP and non-LEP students.
  4. Use knowledge of the cultural characteristics of Florida's LEP population to enhance instruction.
  5. Determine and use appropriate instructional methods and strategies for individuals and groups, using knowledge of first and second language acquisition processes.
  6. Apply current and effective ESOL teaching methodologies in planning and delivering instruction to LEP students.
  7. Locate and acquire relevant resources in ESOL methodologies.
  8. Select and develop appropriate ESOL content according to student levels of proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, taking into account (1) basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS), and (2) cognitive academic language proficiency skills (CALPS) as they apply to the ESOL curriculum.
  9. Develop experiential and interactive literacy activities for LEP students, using current information on linguistic and cognitive processes.
  10. Analyze student language and determine appropriate instructional strategies, using knowledge of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and discourse.
  11. Apply essential, strategies for developing and integrating the four language skills of listening composition, oral communication, reading, and writing.
  12. Apply content-based ESOL approaches to instruction.
  13. Evaluate, design and employ instructional methods and techniques appropriate to learners' socialization and communication needs, based on knowledge of language as a social phenomenon.
  14. Plan and evaluate instructional outcomes, recognizing the effects of race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion on the results.
  15. Evaluate, select, and employ appropriate instructional materials, media, and technology for ESOL at elementary, middle, and high school levels.
  16. Design and implement effective unit plans and daily lesson plans which meet the needs of ESOL students within the context of the regular classroom.
  17. Evaluate, adapt, and employ appropriate instructional materials, media, and technology for ESOL in the content areas at elementary, middle, and high school levels.
  18. Create a positive classroom environment to accommodate the various learning styles and cultural backgrounds of the students.
  19. Consider current trends and issues related to the testing of linguistic and culturally diverse students when using testing instruments and techniques.
  20. Administer tests and interpret test results, applying basic measurement concepts.
  21. Use formal and alternative methods of assessment/evaluation of LEP students, including measurement of language, literacy, and academic content metacognition.
  22. Develop and implement strategies for using school, neighborhood, and home resources in the ESOL curriculum.
  23. Identify major attitudes of local target groups toward school teachers, discipline, and education in general that may lead to misinterpretation by school personnel: reduce cross-cultural barriers among students, parents, and the school setting.
  24. Develop, implement, and evaluate instructional programs in ESOL, based on current trends in research and practice.
  25. Recognize indicators of learning disabilities, especially hearing and language impairment, and limited English proficiency.


Strategies for Teaching ESOL Students

(Most of these strategies will help all students)


Web Sites
  1. Resources for Teachers of ESOL

    Resources for Students

    The Kansas State Board of Education English for Speakers of Other Languages and Bilingual Education Lending Library

    Digital Education Network's English Language Teaching and Learning Section

    The Human Languages Page

    1. References

Badia, Arnhilda. (1966) Language Arts Through ESOL: A Guide for ESOL Teachers and Administrators. Florida International University.


Office of Multicultural Student Language Education. Florida Department of Education. Available at


Empowering ESOL Teachers: An Overview. Section II.3 Handout 5.

Empowering ESOL Teachers: An Overview. Section II.3 Handout 4.


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