Frequently Asked Questions Page Banner

This is a list of questions from faculty members they consider "frequently asked questions" that should be addressed in this Faculty Guidebook. If you have a question (and answer) that you think should be included here, or if you have an addition to the answer to any question already here, send your suggestions and/or additions to the Faculty Development Committee at and your questions and/or answers will be included in this section.

For now the questions and answers are listed in random order. At some point they may be categorized.


Several questions about the ESL program here at HCC follow. If you have any questions, concerns, ideas, etc. about this program, click here ( to send an e-mail message to Gary James one of our ESL faculty.

How do I know if I have an ESL student in a class? What is ESL?
How many of you recognize this scenario? You have a student who always comes to class, who appears to listen intently, to take notes, and who says "yes" when you ask if they understand? But then, on a class assignment, on a test, or during another activity they make it abundantly clear they haven't understood anything? Or, perhaps, you have students who are very fluent in their speaking ability, even native-like, but when it comes to writing, they can't put simple sentences together, and when it comes to reading their textbooks, they don't understand them. Chances are the student is a non-native speaker of English, in other words an English as a Second Language student. At HCC about 25% of our students are ESL students.

Why do ESL students act that way?
There are a number of factors influencing ESL students' performance in class. If they are Asian students, one of the factors is probably a very high respect and even love for learning. Their cultures have instilled in them a motivation to study and acquire knowledge. At the same time they have been taught to respect the teacher and never to question authority, so to admit they don't understand you would be unacceptable behavior. As for widely disparate abilities in speaking versus reading and writing abilities, that's a very common occurrence since the more academic reading and writing skills are usually acquired somewhat after speaking and listening skills.

Why do my ESL students have such limited English vocabulary, such poor grammar, etc.,?
Language learning takes a long time, approximately five to seven years. Academic vocabulary and native-speaker-like grammar are among the last aspects of language acquired because they are the most advanced stages in a continuum of linguistic items to be acquired.

But my ESL students are high school graduates from public schools. Surely they have to be competent in English to graduate from high school?
Not necessarily. The public schools don't have any exit criteria for ESL skills, which may be only fair since they don't offer much in the way of ESL instruction.

What measures are the ESL faculty taking to ensure that my future ESL students will be better prepared than my present students?
Since the summer of 1993, the English as a Second Language instructors at HCC have met extensively in an effort to make major changes in the ESL program here. They have created some sound proposals that address the needs of the students for pedagogically sound instruction in English, their second (or, in some cases, their third) language, and the needs of HCC for budgetary restraint. The proposals have been submitted to the HCC Administration for consideration.

For about three years now, the ESL teaching staff have focussed attention on the three levels of classes that, at present, make up the English Language Institute Program. These classes deal with the basic levels of ESL instruction (starting with reading levels at roughly the first grade level and going to the sixth grade level). These three classes meet from seven to ten hours a week, and all of them have required labs for extra practice time. They have worked to build a solid curriculum in this program taking into account the principles of language learning. The result is students are coming out of it at much higher levels of competence than they ever have in the past. Simply put, it is a very good program, acknowledged by our ESL colleagues in the other UH Community Colleges as the best ESL program in the community colleges.

A current problem being dealt with is the upper levels of ESL instruction, the current English 8 and 15. This problem is related to the problems of second language learning in general, and especially the problem mentioned above of the necessary time it takes to learn a language.

As has already been noted, ESL students can come into the lowest level, ELI 1, at the first or second grade reading level, and exit the highest level in three semesters reading at the sixth grade level. National studies in the professional literature indicate that the norm for progress in reading ability is one year of improvement for each year of instruction. Our students are progressing at a rate four times as great. This is an impressive rate of progress. This pushes the students, and it truly demands a great deal of committment and effort on their part, which not all students are willing and/or able to give. However, the vast majority of students learn, pass their classes. and move up and out of the program within three semesters.

The problem we are facing at HCC now is that when students exit the top level ELI class (at the sixth grade reading level), they go into English 8 and 15. In order for students to pass these classes, students must be reading and writing at the tenth grade level. That means that our students have to make a gain of four years in reading and demonstrate native-speaker competence in writing in only one sixteen-week term of three hours a week of instruction per class, miraculous gains in an impossibly short period of time. This is impossible, but that's what they have been expected to do since the inception of English 8 and 15. The results, of course, have been seen in the large numbers of repeaters, semester in, semester out, with some students repeating the courses as many as three, four, or five times, greatly delaying their entry into higher level English classes, transfer programs, or occupational-technical programs.

How can we change this state of affairs?
Step One: Shift the Lower-Level Classes to Non-Credit Status

The ESL teaching staff has come up with a proposed program that will deal with the issues in a realistic way and which take the current budgetary constraints into account. We are poposing that the current lower level ELI program (with reading levels of first to sixth grade), complete with the current curriculum, (but without the labs), be changed into a non-credit program through the Office of Community Services. The instructional costs for the lower-level ESL classes would be completely removed from HCC's budget and put on a pay-as-you-go basis under the Office of Community Services, with the result that the tuition fees generated for the non-credit program would stay on this campus. That money would be used to hire part-time ESL teachers who would teach in this non-credit program and to pay for a coordinator for the non-credit program. Moreover, the students' tuition rates would be about the same as they are now through the regular program. The part-time teachers would use our current textbooks, the teaching materials we have developed, and they would work under our direct supervision. Thus, the current HCC ESL teaching staff would be involved at every step in setting up and running the non-credit ESL program in order to maintain quality control and to ensure student progress.

Step Two: Redesign the Upper-Level ESL Courses

Once the lower-level courses are transferred to the Office of Community Services, the current HCC ESL teaching staff will be free to teach in a totally new three-level ESL program that would start at the sixth grade reading level and within three terms move students up to the tenth grade reading level. Students' listening, speaking, reading , and writing skills would increase at about one-and-a-half years per term until they reached the tenth exit level. In contrast to the old English 8 and 15 which focussed only on reading and writing, and those subjects at levels much too high for the entering students, the new ESL program would include listening, speaking, reading, and writing instruction which would start at the levels the students enter at, roughly sixth grade, and take the students to the tenth grade in a seamless flow.

Step Three: A Smooth Transition into Transfer-Level Courses

Students would then make an easy transition into voc-tech programs, into mainstream English classes. After students complete the top level of the new ESL program, they would then be mainstreamed into English 22 with native speakers of English. Students who only currently need to complete English 9 and 10 to enter voc-tech programs could directly flow into those programs after completing the top level of the new program.

When will this new ESL program be implemented?
The ESL faculty would like to implement this program in Spring, 1996, to serve the needs of the growing ESL population on our campus. The sooner we can get started on it, the better everything will be for our students, for HCC, and for an improved workforce for the 21st century, including both blue-and white-collar workers. Right now this program is being considered by the Administration prior to being discussed by the Curriculum Committee. If you think the new ESL program will help better prepare your students for your programs, then we would ask for you to support it as it proceeds through the curriculum approval process.


Below are listed some FERPA (Family Educational Rights to Privacy) questions and answers.

What is an Educational Record?
Records maintained by the University of Hawaii and its member campuses that are directly related to a student, e.g., biographical data, grades, coursework, and information related to a request for services.

What is NOT an Educational Record?
  1. An instructor's or supervisor's notes.
  2. Some campus police records.
  3. Employees records (excluding student employment records).
  4. Records of a physician or psychologist connected solely with treatment.
  5. Alumni records.

What Records are Students Denied Access to?
  1. Parent's financial information provided in connection with an application for aid.
  2. Confidential recommendations letters to which a student has waived his or her right of access.

What is confidential?
Any personally identifiable information contained in student educational records.

May Limited Person Identifiable Information be Made Public?
Yes, directory information may be made public unless the student specially asks that it be suppressed. This includes:
  • Name
  • Local address
  • Local telephone number
  • Major field of study
  • Any participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of athletic team members
  • Dates of attendance
  • Most recent institution attended
  • Degrees and awards received

May a student's educational records be viewed by others?
Yes, under a variety of conditions as detailed in Administrative Procedure A7.022.

Again, If you have a question (and answer) that you think should be included here, or if you have an addition to the answer to any question already here, send your suggestions and/or additions to the Faculty Development Committee at and your questions and/or answers will be included in this section.

Faculty Guidebook Faculty Home Page Intranet Home Page