As defined in ESEA Section 8101(20):
Tthe term “English learner,” when used with respect to an individual, means an individual —
(A) who is aged 3 through 21;
(B) who is enrolled or preparing to enroll in an elementary school or secondary school;
(i) who was not born in the United States or whose native language is a language other than English
(I) who is a Native American or Alaska Native, or a native resident of the outlying areas;
(II) who comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a
significant impact on the individual's level of English language proficiency; or
(iii) who is migratory, whose native language is a language other than English, and who
comes from an environment where a language other than English is dominant; and
(D) whose difficulties in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the English language may be sufficient to deny the individual —
(i) the ability to meet the challenging State academic standards;
(ii) the ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction is English; or
(iii) the opportunity to participate fully in society.
Can an ESL student be in gifted, special education, etc.
Yes. An ESL student can be dually identified. This means that they have been identified as eligible for two or more programs. A student's language status does not affect their eligibility for any other programs. This means that ESL students can be in gifted and special education, receive speech/language services, and participate in any extracurricular activities that they are interested in and qualified for. An ESL student is just like any other student, except they are also learning English.
What does ESL instruction look like?
As was mentioned above, ESL instruction can be compared to instruction in most foreign language classrooms. If you can imagine your high school Spanish, French, etc. class, then you have good idea of what an ESL class looks like. However, there are some differences. In some ESL classrooms, there are students from many different levels. You may have a class with advanced, intermediate, and beginner students all learning together. This is unlike foriegn language classrooms and most any other class where students are purposely grouped by their level. Additionally, at the elementary level in our program, students are pulled out to work with ESL staff. At the middle and high school, students take ESL class as a part of their daily schedule.