ELD program spells success for its students

Sam Sarma and Inaaya Yousuf

With sentence stems on the whiteboard, a list of vocabulary definitions on their desks and a complex historical document before their eyes, English Learner students enrolled in Lynbrook’s EL program learn multiple subjects at once — grade-level coursework and English as a second or third language. In integrated EL classes, which include English, History and Science courses, the smaller typical class of 10 to 15 students allows for teachers to help students thoroughly. FUHSD’s EL program ensures that students receive sufficient and equitable help through their journeys as English learners and prepares them for futures in higher education and the workforce. 

When a student who is not fluent in English enrolls at Lynbrook, they must first contact Amy Chan, Lynbrook’s English Language Learner Program Support. From there, the student is tested using the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California and placed into a small ELD 1, 2 or 3 class along with other EL students and a teacher responsible for assisting students with learning at their own pace. 

“The integrated classes make me more comfortable and willing to speak English,” said senior Teresa Chen, who graduated from the ELD Program her sophomore year. “In mainstream classes, it’s kind of scary to speak because I feel like people would judge me as an English learner. In ELD classes I feel more safe.”

Each year, students in the EL program retake the ELPAC, which assesses their English Language skills, as required by Calif.’s ELD guidelines. 

“The integrated classes have the same content as mainstream classes,” EL coordinator and English teacher Daniel Bulone said. “They’re rigorous, challenging courses but with language support so that students can attain the content standards.”

At Lynbrook, ELD 2 and 3 are the only options for students on campus; however, if a student scores an ELPAC score indicative of an ELD 1 level English requirement, they will instead go to Homestead or Fremont High School where they can take the class. This has caused complications for ELD 1 students whose home high school is not Homestead or Fremont, including long commute times. ELD 1 students whose home high school is not Homestead or Fremont are provided with free bus passes to account for long commute times. 

At FUHSD, we really care about making the content meaningful and interesting to our students.”

— Welton Kwong, FUHSD District Coordinator of Curriculum.

All FUHSD ELD classes follow the ELD Master Plan to remain consistent and provide the best support for their students using time-tested methods. The Master Plan outlines testing, placement and support structures for EL students. 

“We really care about making the content meaningful and interesting to our students,” said Welton Kwong, the FUHSD District Coordinator of Curriculum. “We took the route of creating and curating our own materials, but guided by the California standards so students get the same essential skills as English learners elsewhere.”

The curriculum not only includes conversational English but also academic skills such as summarizing, note taking and critical thinking. 

“These aren’t skills that only help them in English class,” Bulone said. “These are skills that help them in all of their other classes as well. It’s a really comprehensive program about not only using English but also having their skills as a student be what they need to be in order to be successful in an American school.”

The FUHSD EL Program currently serves between 850 and 860 students district-wide. To ensure these students receive quality education, the district keeps the curriculum up to date by incorporating online tools and having teachers from all the schools across the district meet with Kwong. 

 The Lynbrook EL Program is currently helping between 40 and 50 students improve their English abilities. Bulone, Lynbrook’s EL program lead, recently assumed his role for the 2022-23 school year. 

“I’m inheriting a really well-developed program that has been put together at the district level to make sure that all students have the best ELD education possible,” Bulone said. 

For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, FUHSD will host the annual English Learner Speech Contest to close the school year. Since 2007, the contest has displayed the students’ knowledge on a topic of their choice while demonstrating their English abilities in a speech given in front of parents and peers. Although current EL students have never participated, Kwong hopes bonds form between students across campuses and that students feel accomplished once they deliver their speech. 

“ELD students find the ELD Speech Contest to be a very positive learning experience because many of them reflect on what they did well and what they would do differently next time,” Kwong said. “So I think it’s good experiential learning and provides an opportunity for reflection. One of the most positive aspects for me is the support and encouragement students provide each other.”

Due to the efforts of the EL teachers, staff and the hard work of its students, the EL program has improved in serving and preparing students for their futures. While Lynbrook’s EL program isn’t perfect yet, it is an effective, meticulously curated and cherished program that supports its students well.