English Language Learner (ELL) Program

Students who are not native speakers of English are placed in an appropriate level of instruction in MGA’s ELL program. International students are assessed at the beginning of the school year and assigned to an appropriate learning group. These small, individualized  ELL classes meet regularly to work on vocabulary development, grammar, conversation, literature and written expression; the coursework draws on the content of students’ other classes.


MGA’s ELL curriculum is the equivalent of a major course and fulfills a student’s English requirement. It may be a three-year sheltered program, including the courses ELL I, II and III. 

International students taking the ELL I program work on reading, writing, listening and speaking English. Students work to enhance their ability both to analyze ELL adapted texts to advanced English texts and to become comfortable with idiomatic English. Teaching materials include representative literature, short stories, poetry and essays, some of which come from the ninth grade English curriculum, as well as other appropriate materials selected by the ELL and English faculty. In addition, students use materials specifically targeted to English as second language learners.

ELL II builds on the level I program and incorporates some of the texts used in tenth grade English, as well as other literature that will support students’ understanding and analysis of written and spoken English in both academic and non-academic settings. To the extent possible, literature in the ELL II curriculum draws on world literature to support our diverse international student group.

The third level of ELL draws from some of the more nuanced works of literature used in both ninth and tenth grade English. These texts are supplemented with other plays, poetry, short stories and essays to engage and challenge ELL students at a suitable level. International students who are in the school for a fourth year will take the regular English 11 course. School transcripts for ELL students include these courses, which are described in the school profile.


International high school students new to MGA are placed in ELL I, unless they are exceptionally proficient in English at a level that enables them to read, write and participate in a regular English class.

This determination will be made in part by the ELL teacher and faculty from the English Department, who work closely with the Guidance and Admission staff. All international students will take the World Class International Design and Assessment Test (WIDA) for placement in ELL or English, as well as for exiting ELL classes. Incoming students, in addition to students placed in ELL I, also take the ninth grade section of history. International students remain paired with the corresponding history course throughout their three years in the ELL program, taking tenth grade history with ELL II and eleventh grade history with ELL III. Final authority over ELL placements will rest with the Academic Dean.

Learning Goals

At the end of the first quarter of every academic year, the ELL instructor, in consultation with the English Department Chair and English instructor, will establish learning goals for each ELL student. The parties will revisit these goals at the end of the third quarter, as part of the school’s evaluation of each student and its decision regarding progression to the next grade.

Incoming ELL Students

Incoming ELL students who possess minimal English-language skills will be graded under a pass/fail system with program accommodations in some or all classes. A pass/fail system typically will be used in reading and writing-based courses. Incoming ELL students who are conversationally fluent and who consistently write with a sense of organization and an ability to present and sustain a discussion will be graded under a traditional grading system with program accommodations. The decision regarding the appropriate grading scheme will be made at the beginning of the academic year upon the recommendation of the English Department and the ELL instructor, in consultation with the Guidance Office and Academic Dean.

Returning ELL Students

MGA will evaluate ELL students’ progress as part of the establishment and review of their learning goals (each year at the end of every first and third quarter, respectively). When the school determines that a student demonstrates conversational fluency and consistently writes with a sense of organization and an ability to present and sustain a discussion, the student will transfer to a regular letter-grading system for all classes, effective the beginning of the subsequent semester. The school will notify the student and her family in a letter signed by the Academic Dean and the ELL instructor and will forward a copy of the letter to the student’s faculty and Guidance Office.

Program Accommodations

The respective faculty member, in consultation with the student and the ELL instructor, will determine appropriate accommodations for regular-graded ELL students, pending approval by the Academic Dean. If an ELL student is graded under a pass/fail system, her faculty has broad discretion in altering the length, scope, depth and/or number of assignments. If an ELL student receives regular letter grades, however, her faculty may implement only the following program accommodations:

  • Extending time for tests and quizzes up to 90 minutes;
  • Extending time for major assignments per approval by the course teacher;
  • Permitting dictionaries for tests and quizzes;
  • Augmenting a textbook with one written at a more suitable English-language level;
  • Augmenting a reading assignment with one written at a more suitable English-language level;
  • And slightly modifying research topics to reflect a student’s particular background (yet still reflecting the course’s curricular goals).

For additional information regarding MGA’s ELL Program, please contact Marie Eschner, Director of Guidance, at (207) 797-3802 ext. 2060.