Knowing that the ESL population faces academic, social, and cultural struggles is one thing, but understanding those struggles and how they impact ESL students age is entirely different.
When ESL programs are successful, students can and do exit them often.
In fact, once ESL students meet the criteria for exiting an ESL program—meaning that they can function in both English and academics at their current grade level—ESL students transition from supported ESL classes to mainstream classes with their peers. And they no longer qualify to receive the additional resources they’ve had in the past.
While this may sound like a loss for these students, exiting an ESL program before high school graduation is something to be celebrated. It mean that they’ve caught up to their peers in both language and academics, but it also means that they have a much better outlook for the future.
Currently in the United States, 84% of non-ESL students graduate high school on time, but only 67% of ESL students do the same. \Exiting an ESL program early drastically increases these students’ chances of graduating from high school, obtaining higher education, and going on to build a successful career.
Unfortunately, far too many students who remain in ESL programs into high school end up dropping out so they never make it to college or trade school.
ESL students are far more likely to attend a local community college that has an open admissions policy instead of a 4-year college or university. While they enroll in community colleges to obtain job-related and basic academic skills, more than half of them drop out before graduating.
Studies have shown that 8 years after high school graduation, only 12% of the ESL students surveyed went on to earn a bachelor’s degree.
ESL students have great potential to be successful in all career fields because of critical thinking skills and their ability to communicate in multiple languages. They stand to do particularly well in business, government, non-profits, and medical careers.
When ESL students drop out of high school or community college, they end up unemployed, underemployed, and at jobs where their earning power is low. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, which they’re uniquely suited for, many ESL students end up working menial jobs for life.
It’s important for teachers to work closely with ESL students. For those who feel especially isolated and alone in a traditional school setting, virtual schools can be a great option to help them succeed academically, receive the extra support they need from qualified teachers, and have a better outlook in the future.