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Vol. 9, Issue 4, May 2009

Solutions for NYS TESOL professionals

TESOL professionals ask and answer questions about problems related to work.

Catherine Thomas
Eleanor Quirk

Problem from Eleanor Quirk:
"Your middle school has recently received an influx of so-called 'over-age" LEP students, students with interrupted or limited formal education, limited native language literacy, and very limited knowledge of English. As the ESL leader, how would you assess and place these students in ESL and in the wider school? How would you adapt your instructional practices, from methods to curriculum, to better accommodate these students?"
This is one of the questions I have to prepare for the comprehensive exam in my TESOL graduate program. I think I can take a crack at the second part of the question (although help is most welcome!) but I have no clue about the first part (how I, as the ESL leader, would assess and place these students.) I have never worked in a school, and I believe this is the first time I have come across the term, "over-age LEP students."
Thank you for any help you can give me.

TESOLution from Jean Marie C. Tas:
I have had students up to their 21st birthday in school, and they are placed according to academic achievement, so a 20-year-old could technically be in 8th grade.  The oldest I had was an almost-21-year-old in 9th grade.  (He ended up opting for taking a GED program, then on to the local community college, rather than wait the years to finish high school, which he'd end up paying for, anyway.)

TESOLution from Annalisa Allegro:
Overage students should have age-appropriate settings – as per regulations.  You do not want a 21-year old in a class with 14 year olds.  The approach should be student-centered.  Assess the child’s skills, knowledge, then create a program that meets his needs – do not try to fit him into a program that is inappropriate.

TESOLution from Theresa Rico:
To assess the students, usually there is an interview, a home language questionnaire and then a test (at least in NYS).   This should help you assess and place students.  Students should be placed in with other students their age.

I hope that is helpful.

Aftermath from Eleanor:
I would like to thank everyone who answered my question. I feel that I am now in a much better position to answer this question. I am most grateful for your collegiality.

Eleanor Quirk is a graduate student at Manhattanville College in Westchester County, New York. She has completed the course work for her Master’s in TESOL, and will be student teaching at Rye Neck Middle/High School in the fall. She is a “career change” student; she has never taught, except for some volunteer tutoring and religious education classes.

Jean-Marie C. Tas is currently acting ESL Dept. Head of a K-6 school, teaching children from Spanish, Polish and Turkish-speaking countries, and an adjunct ESL professor at Suffolk County Community College.  She keeps up with her Turkish fluency by visiting Turkey every year, and tutoring English while she is there.

Annalisa Allegro is the director at Mid-West BETAC Monroe 2.

Theresa Rico



If you have a question or problem you would like addressed contact TESOLutions at: dialogue@nystesol.org.