Language Policy

School Language Philosophy

At Hill-Freedman, we place great importance on students’ language development and maintenance. This allows students to become better thinkers and communicators, as they learn to express themselves in their mother tongue, and that learning a second language also helps them become more open-minded, as they learn about other cultures. Finally, language is also the main tool that students use to build their knowledge of the world and their place in it.

At Hill-Freedman World Academy, it is understood that:

  • “Language is central to learning,” therefore “all teachers are, in practice, language teachers.”
  • All teachers, regardless of the IB discipline or group, must pay close attention to the language mastery of students.
  • Mastery of one’s primary language is the fundamental basis for higher levels of thought and knowledge
  • Learning a language is a life-long process that encourages students to be better thinkers and communicators

School Language Profile

The majority of students at Hill-Freedman World Academy have English as their mother tongue.

In addition, some students speak other mother tongues, including: Spanish, Wolof, Fulah, Vietnamese, Creoles and pidgins, Tagalog, Swahili, Portuguese, Khmer, Chinese (Yue/Cantonese), Chinese (Mandarin), Urdu, and Arabic.

According to the School District of Philadelphia: “each student’s English proficiency level is determined by the W-APT/WIDA Screener, or the yearly administration of the ACCESS for ELs assessment. Based on the student’s performance on the language proficiency assessments, he/she will be assigned one of the following levels of English Proficiency:

Level 1 – Entering: Student does not understand enough oral and written language to perform in English.
Level 2 – Emerging: Student is able to produce isolated words and may be able to understand visual universal symbols and graphics associated with text in English during academic content instruction. Listening and speaking skills are limited in both social and academic language.
Level 3 – Developing: Student uses single words and/or simple phrases to communicate basic content area concepts in English; is able to read and write simple phrases. Oral skills are more developed than reading and writing skills in both social and academic language.
Level 4 – Expanding: Student is becoming comfortable with social language and with routine academic language functions; usually understands English texts in subject areas quite accurately when structures and topics are familiar; and is able to understand and respond to reading and express ideas in writing with some errors in writing conventions.
Level 5 – Bridging: Student is able to speak English with fluency and use some figurative language and idiomatic expressions; can read a variety of grade-appropriate English texts in subject areas with considerable comprehension and speed; and shows an understanding of sentence structure and close to grade-appropriate composition skills.

All of our students have either exited the program, or are at Level 4-5. According to district guidelines, “Students at this level should be programmed into general education” and these students perform on a level that does not require additional services.

While Hill-Freedman does have admission criteria, none of these criteria are related to language use and proficiency. Students of all language backgrounds and proficiency levels are welcome to attend Hill-Freedman and participate in the IB Diploma program.

Maintenance & Support of the Mother Tongue

Information regarding students’ mother-tongue is collected through the district administered home language survey and can be found in the School District Student Information System. Teachers are encouraged to use this information to help support students’ language needs and to honor their cultural diversity. Hill-Freedman World Academy teachers also can use the school district’s translation request system for school documents, and its telephonic interpretation service which “offers interpretation services in 200 languages.”

In addition, since most of our students’ mother tongue is English, we develop and maintain English through our robust English curriculum, which offers five years of instruction in the mother tongue in the MYP, and two years in the DP.

Grades 6-10: MYP Language and Literature
Grades 11-12: IB Language A: Literature HL

In these courses the mother tongue is supported and developed by a specific focus on activating students’ prior knowledge and building that knowledge through specific instruction about literary conventions and the historical and cultural context of a text; by scaffolding instruction, through the development of common writing terminology and a common approach to teaching writing; by extending students knowledge through scaffolded performance tasks; and by celebrating students’ identity through a carefully chosen texts that reflect the diversity and identity of our students.

Learning a Second Language

Hill-Freedman middle students study three years of Spanish in the MYP; high school study two years of Spanish culture and traditions, and two years of Spanish Ab initio.

Grades 6-8: MYP Language Acquisition
Grades 9-10: Spanish Cultures & Language
Grades 11-12: Language B: Spanish Ab initio

Because the high school and middle school are separate programs, there is no direct continuity between 8th and 9th grade.

Roles & Responsibilities


  • Review, update, and communicate the Language Policy annually
  • Provide professional development in understanding and implementing the Language Policy
  • Provide teachers with access to student Language Profiles


  • Activate students’ prior knowledge to help them make sense of text
  • Scaffold new learning to build student ability to understand text
  • Extend language and reading by combining high expectations with rich materials
  • Affirm students’ cultural identity
  • Explicitly teach content-specific terminology and vocabulary