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HCPSS Implements Higher Standards for Language Proficiency to Prepare English Learners for Success Beyond High School

Posted: June 2nd, 2017

The Howard County Public Schools System (HCPSS) is raising the bar for language proficiency of students in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

HCPSS implemented higher standards, adopted by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), for ESOL participants this school year. The new standards are aligned with the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards and will help Howard County’s diverse student population, with over 100 countries and 82 languages represented, exit the ESOL program better prepared for success.

“The WIDA standards help us chart a path for English learners to graduate with higher skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening,” said HCPSS Acting Superintendent Michael J. Martirano. “We want every child to receive the support they need, and acquire the skills needed for success in college and the workplace.”

Maryland is a member of the WIDA consortium, a group of 35 states that use the same standards to teach academic English and monitor the language proficiency growth of English Learners through the WIDA-created ACCESS 2.0 assessment. MSDE set new requirements that align ESOL expectations with PARCC standards.

HCPSS students in ESOL will receive their score reports this month. Even with new, higher standards, HCPSS has the highest ESOL exit percentage for student success among Maryland school systems with 50,000 or more students, and is in the top three statewide.

Under the new requirements, ESOL students must score 4.5 or above on ACCESS 2.0 to prove English proficiency, allowing them to exit the ESOL program. More detailed information and resources are available on the WIDA website. Information for families has been translated into 47 languages on the WIDA site.

While more students may remain in the program based on the change in criteria, no additional staff will be required beyond the levels already allocated for the FY18 budget. HCPSS staffing allocations for ESOL in school year 2017–2018 are based on current enrollment in the program rather than projected enrollment of exiting students.