Understanding Texas English Language Proficiency Standards

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

When you learn a language, there are four skills you need to acquire: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. This lesson explains the expectations for each skill according to the 'Texas English Language Proficiency Standards'.

Different Levels of Each Skill

Sue is a second-grade teacher in Texas. This year, she has two English Language Learners (ELL students) in her class: Hans and Camila. Hans is from Germany and speaks enough English to communicate basic information. However, he has trouble understanding American accents and has no reading/writing skills in English. Camila was born in the United States but grew up in a Spanish-speaking home. Speaking/listening are at an intermediate level, but her reading/writing are very limited. Each student has different language-skill issues and, thus, different levels for each skill. Ideally, students will eventually have a domain of all four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

The 'Texas English Language Proficiency Standards' (ELPS) define four different levels that students from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade may have at each skill. The levels are Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, and Advanced High. Let's take a look at what each skill means according to the descriptors in the ELPS, which take into account the fact that language learning is usually a long process for non-native speakers of English. For each skill, there are two tables: the first one defines the level whereas the second one describes how a student displays her/his level.

Speaking Levels

This table describes the meaning of each level for speaking in academic/social settings.

Beginning Intermediate Advanced Advanced High
Little or no ability to speak Ability to speak in simple way with common terms Ability to use grade-level language with support Ability to use grade-level language with minimal support

This table describes how students speak at each level.

Beginning Students Intermediate Students Advanced Students Advanced High Students
Use short phrases or extremely familiar/memorized sentences to communicate immediate needs. They do so in a hesitant way and often give up. Use simple sentences and participate in conversation with hesitation at times. Comfortably participate in conversations but may pause, at times, to search for a word/expression. Participate in extended social or academic discussions with occasional hesitation or pauses.
Lack knowledge of English grammar. Have basic knowledge of simple tenses and sentence structure. Have knowledge of past, present, and future tenses and can form complex sentences. Have grammar knowledge that compares to that of a native speaker.
Make mistakes when using short phrases or memorized sentences. Make mistakes when trying to use complex sentences. Make mistakes when trying to use complex grammar. Make rare/few mistakes when communicating.
Use pronunciation that is extremely hard to understand. Use pronunciation that is easy to understand by people who are used to it. May mispronounce words but are easy to understand by people who are not used to it. May mispronounce words but it does not interfere with communication.

Listening Levels

This table describes the meaning of each level for listening in academic/social settings.

Beginning Intermediate Advanced Advanced High
Little or no ability to understand English Ability to understand simple and common terms Ability to understand grade-level English with support Ability to understand grade-level English with minimal support

This table describes how students listen at each level.

Beginning Students Intermediate Students Advanced Students Advanced High Students
Struggle to understand simple conversation even if the speaker uses visual aids, gestures, etc. Usually understand simple sentences/conversation but need extensive support to understand complex language. Usually understand complex structures but may need processing time for unfamiliar topics. Understand extended social or academic discussions with occasional need to process specialized language.
Struggle to identify individual words/sentences. Understand key words/sentences and general meaning. Understand most main points and can even process implicit meaning. Understand main points and implicit meaning in a way that's comparable to a native speaker.
Remain silent and watch others for cues. Seek clarification by asking, requesting to repeat, etc. Occasionally need to seek clarification. Rarely require clarification.

Reading Levels

This table describes the meaning of each level to build foundational reading skills, which depends on the knowledge a student possesses of the English language.

Beginning Intermediate Advanced Advanced High
Little or no knowledge Limited English knowledge Advanced English knowledge with need of support at times Possess English knowledge and occasional need for minimal support

This table describes how students read at each level.

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