Preparing & Empowering Multilingual Students Through the English Language Development Program

Published July 2023

School District 197 values our vibrant and diverse student population, representing a rich tapestry of cultures and languages. With over 40 languages spoken, our commitment is to provide exceptional educational opportunities for students learning English as an additional language, known as English Learners (ELs) or multilingual learners (MLs), and equip them with skills and support to acquire English proficiency while meeting state academic standards. We prepare all students, including English Learners, to succeed in an interconnected, multicultural, and multilingual world.

Supporting English Learners

Led by Andrea Sáenz, English Learner Program Coordinator, the English Language Development (ELD) program helps students who speak home languages other than English gain the necessary skills and proficiency to succeed in the academic English of school. “The EL program helps students to access the language of content classes—also known as mainstream classes, like algebra or social studies—and gives them the support to be

successful in school,” shares Andrea. “We aim to leverage a student’s home language to create as much access to grade-level content standards as possible by explicitly teaching the language functions and features of those particular content areas.” Andrea shares that the ultimate goal is for students to exit the program and continue their educational journey in mainstream content classes independently.

That educational journey and support can look different for each student based on several factors. “For newcomer students specifically, or those that are new to the country, there is often trauma involved in making the transition to a new school system in a new country with a new language,” shares Andrea. “A student who arrives in a U.S. school with a strong academic background from a stable educational system has different needs than one whose family fled war or government instability and who may have interrupted schooling.”

"The EL program helps students to access the language of content classes—also known as mainstream classes, like algebra or social studies— and gives them the support to be successful in school.”

A Growing Program

Since 2021, the EL population in School District 197 has increased by nearly 25 percent, with the largest population of EL students attending Two Rivers High School. Teachers licensed in English as a Second Language work closely with classroom teachers to provide a well-rounded education for EL students, bridging classroom content with academic English language instruction.

Andrea highlights, “Students from other countries come here with many skills and abilities; they just may not know how to communicate those ideas in English. That’s why our EL teachers are essential in providing a linguistic and cultural bridge until the students reach a level of English proficiency that allows them to access and succeed in the curriculum independently.”

Successes and Highlights

School District 197 celebrates the achievements of our EL students, with a record number of seniors pursuing higher education and a record number of ELs or former ELs achieving Bilingual Seals certification. These accomplishments stand as a testament to the hard work of our students and the effectiveness of our EL program—which fosters a sense of connection, community, and welcoming environments that nurture academic and personal growth. Our dedicated EL teachers (in close collaboration with content teachers, counselors, cultural liaisons, interpreters, and administrators) are vital in creating a warm and inclusive environment for new EL students. Recognizing the significance of fostering a sense of belonging, they invest considerable effort into building strong academic support and a culturally sustaining atmosphere.