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Parent Handbook


Welcome to the ESL Middle School Program in Rochester Schools! This booklet is intended to help parents and students understand some of the characteristics of being a middle school student in the U.S. and to help make an easier transition to school here. Since there are a lot of topics to cover, the booklet is divided into different sections.

The American Middle School
Students who arrive from different countries have a lot of adjustments to make. The structure and set-up of the middle school system in the U.S. is usually different from other schools at the same level. First, students here are required to change their classroom often and travel from part of the school to the next with four minutes allowed to achieve the task. Students also are assigned a locker here where they are expected to keep textbooks and personal belongings. Students often work in cooperative groups on assignments and projects and are encouraged to develop team-building skills. There are a lot of "hands-on" activities. There is not an emphasis on memorization of great amounts of material. There is, instead, an emphasis on application of knowledge and building critical thinking skills. Teachers are friendly, but they expect students to treat teachers and other students respectfully.

Teachers at middle-school level also require a certain amount of independence from their students. For example, students are expected to copy assignments from the chalkboard, overhead projector, etc. without being reminded. Also, students are expected to ask for missed work when they miss school because of sickness or other school absences. Students are expected to ask for help when they don't understand something. Usually, this is not a problem because most new international students also attend ESL where they can receive additional help on assignments. However, if a student does not understand the directions of an assignment or cannot see the board, it is his/her responsibility to ask for help.

Students eat lunch by grade level (sixth, seventh, or eighth) in the school cafeteria. Lunch may be purchased at school or students may bring a lunch from home. Students may also buy snacks and beverages from the cafeteria. Students must remain in the cafeteria during their assigned time. Some students visit the gymnasium or library during this time with prior arrangement and adult permission.

Homework requirements here may be very different from what your child is used to. Some students feel that the amount of homework assigned here is less than what they received back home. Because the amount of homework is less, a few students mistakenly believe it is also easy and only put in a minimal effort. It is very important to remind your child to review even completed homework assignments so that they can better understand the material and be better prepared for quizzes and tests. Students are expected to keep a record of their homework assignments in a planner from school. Please ask to see the planner and discuss your child's assignments with him/her. The home language is fine for discussion and it helps to create a link for you and the school.

Extracurricular Activities
There are opportunities for children to become involved in activities at school. There are clubs and sports teams where your child can meet other children with the same interests. These clubs almost always meet after school. In addition, there are sports teams, dance, art, swimming and many other activities available in the community. We try to inform students about these organizations. Information booklets from these organizations are mailed four times a year to every household in Rochester Hills.

Parent/Teacher Conferences
Every fall semester and spring semester there are a couple of days that are set aside for parent/teacher conferences. Parent/teacher conferences give you the opportunity to speak with your child's teachers privately about his/her progress in school. Every parent is strongly encouraged to attend. If your English is limited, it would be helpful to bring a translator with you. These conferences are intended for parents only unless your child's teachers request a student-led conference with you.

How to Better Help Your Child Succeed in School
Many parents ask how to help their child be a more successful student. There are a few suggestions that I often give parents listed below:

  1. Ask to see your child's homework or completed assignments every day.
  2. Establish a regular, consistent time to do homework.
  3. Ask your child to explain his/her classroom assignments to you. It is fine to use their home language to do this.
  4. Have a positive attitude about your child's new school.
  5. Encourage your child to keep trying even when assignments are difficult. Reassure him/her that eventually school will not seem too difficult.
  6. Encourage your child to view his/her time in the United States as an exciting opportunity to learn new things.
  7. Encourage your child to read-both in English and in their home language. The city library, school library, and the ESL bookrack all have books available at your child's reading level. In addition, there are some very good book stores in Rochester that provide a wide assortment of excellent books of varying levels and interests.
  8. Communicate concerns or questions to your child's teachers or the ESL teacher.
Tests and Quizzes
If your child is enrolled in ESL, he/she may take quizzes and tests from all his/her classes in the ESL Center or occasionally in your child's Learning Center. The intention is not to give children answers. The ESL staff can help with language modification and other assistance to help students better understand testing materials.


Inclement weather
Occasionally, there are winter days when the weather makes it impossible for children to travel to school safely. If there is too much snow or ice on the roads, school may be cancelled. If you awake and find that there is a lot of snow or ice outside, turn on your TV to Channel 2, 4, or 7. Look for Oakland County, then Rochester Schools, Rochester Community Schools, or Rochester Public Schools. Individual school names will not be listed unless there is a problem (such as no water or power) that is specific to that school.


Tornadoes are occasionally a problem in the Midwest in the spring. Sometimes there are Tornado Watches (weather is right for a tornado) or Tornado Warnings (a tornado has been spotted). If a Tornado Warning occurs during school hours, there is a safety plan in place at school where children are placed in safe locations in the school until the Warning has passed.


Community Resources
There are wonderful community resources available to families living in Rochester. The city library lends high quality materials to children and adults free of charge. In addition to books, books on tape, videos, DVDs, magazines, and CDs are available to use. ESL International Book Center, Borders, and Barnes and Noble sell high quality books and dictionaries.


The G grade and Grading of ESL Students
All students enrolled in ESL receive a grade of "G" for the ESL class. Because of the nature of ESL as an assistance to students and as a classroom of students of varying degrees of English proficiency, all students will receive the "G" grade. This grade indicates credit is given for taking the course. However, students receive daily assignments in ESL that they must complete on time and turn in for a letter grade in order to pass the class. These assignments are designed to improve their language skills, so daily completion is important.


Parents will receive a quarterly progress report that has letter grades which reflect assessment of student's skills in different areas of English. Students who are new to the United States and have little or no English language proficiency are given a grade of "G" in all of their classes for the first semester or two. The grade of "G" represents credit for effort given to understanding classroom materials, completing homework to the best of the student's ability, and attempting classroom quizzes and tests. A grade of "G" means that the student has passed the class, but has not achieved a grade of higher than a "D". Students who make no effort to complete assignments are given a grade of "Unsatisfactory".


Students who have a basic knowledge of English sometimes receive a modified grade. This means that they are able to complete most of the assignments for a class but are excused from more difficult assignments such as long essays or research papers. Occasionally, students are given alternate assignments. Some students who come with good English skills or who progress in English over the school year are given regular grades so that they have a true sense of how they are performing at their grade level.


Importance of Effort
Students come to ESL with different educational backgrounds and experiences with English. Some individuals learn language easily and others take longer. Please emphasize to your child that it is important to demonstrate effort and perseverance in every class. The teachers know that your child is learning English and they are very patient with ESL students. However, ESL students must also demonstrate effort by asking for help in the ESL Center and attempting some homework at home, regardless if it is one question or twenty.


Students are expected to show courtesy to the bus drivers and one another by remaining in their seats and talking quietly so as not to interfere with the safe operation of the bus.


Importance of knowing phone number and address
In the US parents teach children their home phone number and address at a very early age. This is for a child's protection and to make sure that a child can be quickly assisted if he/she becomes ill at school. Every year, we have a number of ESL students who are never taught this basic information. Please make sure your child knows his/her phone number and address and also make sure that he/she carries alternate work or family/friend phone numbers. Also, if you change your residence and phone number, make sure that the school is informed of the new numbers and that your child also knows them.


Importance of tolerance and respect for others
The ESL classroom is a wonderful, diverse place where children have the opportunity to meet other children from all over the world. It is in this spirit of international understanding and cooperation that we ask you to remind your children to appreciate others who are different from themselves. We encourage all students to speak English in the ESL room. Occasionally, students from the same language background are called on to help explain directions or assignments. Also, some minimal bilingual instruction may be helpful to a few students who are struggling with the language. However, judging others based on names, language, religion, or ways of speaking or doing things, or intentionally excluding others from conversation will not be tolerated.
Adapted from Pam Glaysher, ESL Consultant at West Middle School