Curriculum Standards

The number of non-native English speaking students in the United States has increased drastically in the past years. According to the 1998/1999 Florida Department of Education ESOL report, there were limited English proficiency students (LEP) from 53 countries and 49 different languages in this writer’s county. Despite of the ever-growing ESOL population, national ESOL standards are still quite unclear for parents and some educators.

The NCTE – National Council of Teachers of English – Website clearly states the national standards for the English language arts. Nevertheless, standards for K-12 ESOL are not specifically addressed. Students whose first language is not English are mentioned in item number 10 of the standards’ list, which states that non-English speaking students make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum. The vision guiding these standards is that all students must have the opportunities and resources to develop the language skills they need to pursue life’s goals and to participate fully as informed, productive members of society.

A more comprehensive approach and definition of national ESOL standards was released in June 1997 by The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), which assisted TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) in developing and implementing standards for the effective instruction of ESL to pre-K-12 students in the United States. These standards address the questions of what students should know as a result of their ESL instruction. Moreover, these standards also discuss the needs of students with limited formal schooling and learning disabilities. TESOL defends that all education personnel should assume responsibility for the education of linguistically and culturally diverse students. The list of ESL goals and standards was developed based on the concept that ESL learners develop proficiency in the target language (English) while maintaining and promoting learners’ native languages. Furthermore, ESL standards are not intended to replace standards being developed in other content areas but rather supplement standards in English language arts, math, social studies, and other content areas that are part of the student’s curriculum.

On a state level, Dr. Arnhilda Badía, Florida International University, prepared and submitted a report to the Florida Department of Education in May of 1996. Dr. Badia’s report – LANGUAGE ARTS THROUGH ESOL: A GUIDE FOR ESOL TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS – is now available through the Office of Multicultural Student Language Education (OMSLE) and the Florida Department Education. Dr. Badia’s report is quite comprehensive and addresses the needs of ESOL students and detailed state standards.

Both national (CAL & TESOL) and state standards (Florida Department of Education) are concerned not only with sociolinguistic but also with sociocultural competence. The importance of having students develop not only language but also social skills is mentioned in both sets of standards. In addition, the standards proposed by TESOL and the Florida Department of Education are inclusive of parents and teachers’ education. Parental involvement is key for this group of students due to the fact that quite often the parents themselves need to develop language and sociocultural skills.

This writer believes that although much has been done to better meet the needs of the ESOL student population, the standards are still not clear to the population it serves. In states with a high concentration of ESOL students, parents and educators seem to be better prepared to assist learners. Nevertheless, the national standards have not reached the nation as a whole yet.


Florida Department of Education. (n.d.). ESOL 1998/99 Annual Status Report on the Implementation of the 1990 League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), et al. v. State Board of Education, et al. Consent Decree. Retrieved September 2, 2002, from

Florida Department of Education. (1996). Language arts through ESOL: a guide for ESOL teachers and administrators. Retrieved September 2, 2002, from

National Council of Teachers of English. (n.d.). Standards for the English Language Arts. Retrieved September 3, 2002, from

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (1997). The ESL Standards for Pre-K-12 Students. Retrieved September 3, 2002, from

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About Monica Wiesmann-Hirchert

Monica has been teaching ESOL/EFL for 16 years - both in Brazil and in the United States. She taught EFL to adults and business executives in Brazil as well as trained other EFL professionals. Monica has been working with international students in the United States for 8 years; she prepares this student population to enol in academic programs at English speaking colleges and universities. While in Brazil, Monica was the pedagogical coordinator of a large language institute and responsible for selecting and training new EFL instructors, designing business English courses, & administering the University of London proficiency exams. Currently, Monica is coordinating an IEP (Intensive English Program) at a 2-year college in Florida. She is responsible for designing and implementing curriculum, selecting and training ESOL faculty, administering the Institutional TOEFL test, and student counseling and advising.

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