65.  How long will a student remain in an ESL Program?

The length of time that ESL students remain in an ESL program depends on how well the ESL and the content area programs are coordinated, interconnected and integrated. An ESL program that offers ESL students an extraordinary opportunity to learn English BUT is not INTERCONNECTED, COORDINATED and INTEGRATED with the teaching-and-learning that ESL students experience in content area classes every school day, is a program where ESL students will remain for a longer period of time.

On the other hand, if the ESL program offers ESL students the extraordinary opportunity to learn the English language, especially the English language of the content areas, then those students will remain for a shorter period of time in the ESL program. If the ESL program includes the English language needed to succeed in the teaching-and-learning that ESL students experience in content area classes every school day, then that ESL program is a very effective program in promoting rapid exit of ESL students.

One critical research finding we must keep in mind is that cognitive and language development occur simultaneously. It follows, then, that if language development stops, cognitive development also stops. And vice versa, if cognitive development stops, then language development stops. Every word is a concept. Learning to distinguish the color "red" implies recognizing the color attributes named by the word "red." Thus, ESL should be the place where students learn the LANGUAGE of the content areas, and content area classes should be the place to listen with understanding, speak, read and write about the concepts named by the new words mastered in ESL.

In the ESL classroom, students can and should learn, for example, the words "fraction, numerator, denominator, proper-, improper-, mixed-fractions, etc." In the ESL class, these words are learned using manipulatives, folding papers into equal parts, dealing with concrete entities made up of equal parts, etc. In the math class, the teacher uses these words as he/she introduces and solves –through manipulatives-- math problems. An ESL student should carry from the ESL class into the content area classes, an understanding of the language of the content areas. That student will understand the content area lesson, participate actively, answer questions, and probably read and/or write using the words mastered in the ESL and in the content area lesson.

Two other factors also play a role in determining the length of time ESL students remain in ESL classrooms:

  1. The native language, and the native language fluency and vocabulary development that an ESL student has.
  2. The content-area teacher’s training in effective techniques and strategies for teaching English Learners.

The Native Language: The language the student brings to the ESL classroom, (h)is/er native language, has a very significant influence in the length of time that an ESL student (or English learner) remains in the ESL classroom. For example, languages that share many similarities –similar or identical alphabetical writing system; many "cognates," that is, words with similar pronunciation, meaning, and spelling in two languages; similar syntax or sentence patterns, etc.—tend to be mastered faster due to "transfer of learning." On the other hand, languages that share very few or have no similarities –totally different writing systems, no "cognates," different syntactical patterns to express similar thoughts, etc.—tend to be more difficult to learn, and mastery takes a longer period of time.

The age of the ESL student and the number of years of formal education that the ESL student has had through the native language are factors influencing native language fluency and vocabulary development. Research shows that, in general, ESL students with a solid educational background through their native languages tend to master English AND content area concepts rather fast. These students succeed in English-Only content area classes within a relatively short period of time. Younger ESL students with, of course, much less formal education through their native languages, and older ESL students who are very limited in their education through their native languages, tend to remain longer in ESL classes.

Teacher Training: ALL educational research shows that the teacher’s knowledge, and implementation, of effective instructional strategies and teaching techniques to meet the needs of (h)is/er students are the key factors in successful educational programs. ALL content area teacher should receive training on the types of effective teaching-and-learning activities that help ALL students acquire the language of the content areas.


For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


For information and credentials please click on the link below or contact directly:


Educational Consultant, Program Evaluator

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Certification (12/2006)

3113 Malcolm Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034-3406

Phone and Fax: (310) 474-5605

E-mail:  csssadek@gte.net