ESOL at Tilton School: What You Need to Know
Allison Rainville

At Tilton School, the English for Speakers of Other Languages  (ESOL) Program is designed to serve international students who require additional support for English proficiency. The program supports students and prepares them to use English in their continued college or university studies, future jobs, and personal endeavors.

Tilton's ESOL courses provide instruction in the English language, exposure to the American classroom and culture, and exercise of the study skills needed to succeed in a rigorous academic setting. For international families looking to enroll their child at an American boarding school, the process can be confusing without proper guidance.

Allison Rainville, ESOL Program Director, weighs in on many frequently asked questions about the program.

How are students placed in the program?

Placements should be done using some sort of assessment. Some schools design their own assessments; others use standardized tests like the TOEFL, Duolingo, iTEP, or others. The school should ideally be placing students into or out of ESOL before the school year starts, although sometimes students move into or out of ESOL once the school gets to know the student’s abilities better. This is not a bad thing! It means that the school is responsive to students’ needs and wants students to be successful!

Are students leveled according to proficiency?

The answer to this question should be “yes.” Some schools place students into ESOL classes with other students at the same grade level, and the ESOL class is designed simply to support the students’ other courses. This is not a true ESOL program, and it will not support a student’s English language development appropriately. A good ESOL program teaches language as an additional subject, furthering students’ English acquisition, and doesn’t simply aim to get students through their other classes.

What subjects does the ESOL Program teach?

Academic language should be the focus of any ESOL program. Students often come to the school with good conversational skills, or they learn those skills quickly outside of the classroom. The goal of a good ESOL program should be to build students’ academic language skills so that their classwork will not fall behind. Reading and writing skills should be taught at all levels of ESOL, and speaking and listening skills should be taught at the lower levels as well. The ESOL program should have its own curriculum, not just follow along with other classes.

How do students exit the ESOL Program?

Some schools use tests to determine whether or not a student can exit the ESOL program, but a test cannot always determine whether or not a student will do well outside the ESOL program. Good ESOL programs allow students to leave when they have proven over time that they have the skills to be successful in mainstream classes.

Who teaches the ESOL Program?

The school should have a dedicated faculty member who has some training in ESOL methodology. Ideally, the teacher(s) should have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Teachers with these degrees know the specific needs of non-native speakers of English, and they can help students build their academic language skills in a way that is supportive of their language growth over their entire time at the school.

Want more information on ESOL and applying to Tilton School as an international student? Visit the international applicants page of our website!


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