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English Language Learners

Welcome, Bienvenidos, Konnichiwa!

Welcome to the English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program for the Greenwich Public Schools. Certified English Language Learner (ELL) teachers work with instructional aides and classroom teachers to provide comprehensive instruction in the English language, content areas and cultural awareness, aligned to a specific set of standards unique to our learners.

The mission of the ESOL program is to facilitate the acquisition of communicative and academic English, academic content and cultural competency to enable English Learners (ELs) to succeed in general education classes and U.S. communities as quickly a possible.

To meet the myriad needs of our students, ELL Staff provide:

  • comprehensive, sheltered English language instruction encompassing all four language domains (speaking, listening, reading & writing) and critical thinking skills;
  • content area instructional support aligned to GPS curricula, tailored to students’ linguistic proficiency and specific academic needs;
  • linguistic proficiency data as well as cultural and educational background information to teachers and administrators to inform instruction;
  • suggested research-based strategies for addressing individual student needs in the classroom;
  • professional learning for all staff members to help facilitate culturally and linguistically diverse students’ academic growth.

To learn more about the Connecticut English Language Proficiency Standards (CELP), please visit the CT State Department of Education’s website,

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQs about ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) Services

How are ESOL services delivered to students enrolled in grades 6 - 12?

Answer: Greenwich High School (GHS) and each middle school in the Greenwich Public Schools employs a certified ELL specialist who follows a Sheltered Instruction model for the identified English Learners (ELs). Sheltered Instruction is a term used to refer to teaching practices that make subject matter and content comprehensible for ELs. This includes specific, leveled English Language Arts classes for each level of proficiency (ESOL Language Arts 1, 2 and 3.)

What if students require more English language support in grades 6 - 12?

Answer: Students in grades 6 - 8 at the beginning levels of language acquisition can also take ESOL Social Studies in middle school. Students in grades 9 - 12 requiring more English Language support can also take ESOL Math, ESOL Biology or ESOL chemistry as well as ESOL Social Studies and ESOL American History. These courses support students at the earliest stages of English Language development in gaining the linguistic knowledge they need to navigate their math, science and social studies courses. Teachers teach the content, but also employ strategies to teach the academic language needed to be successful in the course.

How are ESOL services delivered to students in grades K - 5?

Answer: In the GPS elementary schools, ELL specialists trained in ESOL and sheltered methodology and strategies for making content accessible to students service English learners via pull-out or push-in ESOL instruction, depending on students' linguistic levels and academic needs. Pull-out ESL instruction means that small groups of students are taken out of the mainstream classroom environment to be provided small-group intensive services. During push-in instruction, English language services are provided inside the general education classroom during content-area lessons.


How are students identified and placed into the ESOL program?

Answer: The Home Language Survey (HLS) is administered to each student registering in Connecticut Public Schools. If the HLS indicates a language other than English, the student should be screened for ESOL services. Placement into ESOL classes is determined by a student's performance on a combination of language assessments. When initial placement exams are conducted, students will be asked to demonstrate their skill in: conversational English, essay writing, reading, listening, mechanics, vocabulary and grammar.

How does a student exit the ESOL program?

Answer: Students must meet English Mastery Standards on the LAS LINKS (English Proficiency) state mandated assessment in all grades K - 12, read and write on grade level or within grade level band and need to be recommended for a full exit by their teacher based on their day-to-day performance throughout the school year from September through May.

How is grade placement determined for students transferring into Greenwich from other countries?

Answer: During the initial intake interview, ESOL staff and other school personnel, such as the principal or the middle school or high school guidance counselors, will evaluate the transferring student's official school records. Students in grades K-8 are placed depending upon the grade in which they were most recently enrolled in their home country. Students are placed based on the US academic calendar, which runs from approximately from September-June.

Students enrolling in Greenwich High School will be placed according to their sending school's transcripts. These transcripts are translated by the ESOL staff & the guidance counselors into International Carnegie Units. The International Carnegie Units will be used to determine grade placement.

What do parents/students need to bring to the initial placement interview?

Answer: It is necessary for a parent or legal guardian to be present at the initial intake interview. Official school records should be brought to the interview. For students enrolling in Greenwich High School, transcripts must be available for translation into International Carnegie Units.

What kinds of standardized tests will a student have to take in ESOL?

Answer: All students from grade 3 to grade 8 in Connecticut are required to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment. High School students will be required to take the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) Science test in grade 11 starting in SY 2018 - 2019, and the specialized Connecticut "School Day" SAT, also in grade 11. All English Learners in the state of Connecticut in grades K-12 are required to take an English language proficiency test: the LAS Links Assessment.


Will literacy skills transfer from first to second language?

Answer: If a student has learned academic skills such as reading, writing and organization of information in a first language, then these skills will be applied to academic learning as the second language develops.

Why isn't this student talking? Is the student learning anything?

Answer: All second language learners experience a time when they are acquiring receptive language before they are able to produce it. They are listening, but not yet speaking. This silent period parallels the state in first language acquisition when a child is internalizing language before he or she begins to talk. English learners in the classroom are silent as they internalize the vocabulary and rules of the new language until they are confident enough to speak. Although an EL student may be more comfortable speaking with other English learners within an ESOL setting, the same student may remain silent in the general education classroom while he or she builds this confidence. The silent period is part of the learning process during which students are making the needed connections between the first and the new language.

If a student sounds fluent in English, why is he or she still in the ELL program?

Answer: Conversational proficiency is the ability to use language in face-to-face communication which can take one to three years. Academic proficiency is the ability to carry out school-related literacy tasks - this can take last anywhere from five to ten years, depending on the individual student. A framework developed by Jim Cummins, a researcher in second language acquisition, is often used to explain the different between conversational (BICS - Basic Interpersonal Conversation Skills) and academic proficiency (CALP - Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency).

If a student has exited from an ESOL program, why does he or she still have problems with content?

Answer: It is likely to take anywhere from five to ten years for students to demonstrate mastery at the cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) level. Therefore, it is important for the general education teacher to recognize that exited EL students will need ongoing support as they continue to work toward grade-level performance.

Should parents be encouraged to speak their native language or be advised to speak only English with their children at home?

Answer: Parents should be encouraged to speak in the language in which they are most proficient in order to create a language-enriched environment in the home. Current studies on the impact of bilingualism on the academic growth of students conclude that when children maintain their first language ability, they transfer skills to their second language. In fact, native language proficiency is a powerful predictor of the rate of second language acquisition.

Do English Learners (ELs) need an IEP or 504 plan to receive accommodations on tests?

Answer: No. All ELs are entitled to receive testing accommodations on state and district tests.

Tips for Helping Your Child Succeed in Learning English as a Second Language

  • Native Language: Continue to speak in your child's native language at home. Your child will learn English mostly at school, however it is important that your child continue to be enriched in his or her native language. This will allow them to transfer their knowledge to their new language and develop their critical thinking skills.
  • Public and School Libraries: Visit the local public library to check out books for your child, as many as you would like. The library will be happy to help you select appropriate books for your child. The public libraries also have books in many other languages for children and adults. The libraries also host special events, such as story hour, for children of all ages. You can also check out additional books at your child's school library.
  • Read, Read, Read!: Read to your child in his or her native language or have him or her read to you. This way, you will be able to have a meaningful discussions about the literature in your native language. You can also have your child read aloud to you in English. Younger children can use picture books to "invent" their own stories.
  • Videos/Educational Television: Your child will benefit from watching videos and educational television in English for about 30 minutes to an hour daily.
  • Play Dates: Set up play dates for your child with English-speaking classmates. This will help him or her develop oral language and social skills. You will find that if you invite your child's classmates to your home, your child will, in turn, get invited to friend's homes.
  • Afters Programs: Most schools have after school programs for different ages and interests. You will receive more information from the school as new programs begin.
  • School Calendar: Try to follow the Greenwich Public Schools calendar. Daily attendance is important to ensure academic success.
  • Summer Programs: Consider the option of summer school and summer camp for your child. In the spring you will receive a booklet from the school listing summer school programs and summer camps. There is usually a summer school program for ESOL students.
  • Computer Websites: Each school's website offers a virtual library under "Quicklinks/Digital Learning Environment/GPS Digital Toolbox"which has excellent resources for your children.
  • Adult Education Classes: Contact Greenwich Adult Continuing Education (GACE) at 203-625-7423 or visit them at GACE offers free English as a Second Language classes for adults living or working in Greenwich. Learn to speak, read and write English in a program that focuses on the skills needed in everyday life. Classes meet Monday and Wednesday beginning September 18, 2017
    • In-person registration required for all new and returning students. Registration is Monday and Tuesday 9/11 & 9/12 at 10:00 AM at 290 Greenwich Avenue, and 6:00PM at Greenwich High School/Folsom House. All new students should allow two hours for registration and testing, and bring proof of residence or local employment. For more information call 203-625-7423 or email us.

Program Coordinator

Adriane Hirsch-Klein

Language Program Coordinator
Central Office
World Language, English Language Learning, District Administration