What methods are used to identify English language learners?

What methods are used to identify English language learners?

November 2014


Identifying English language learners is generally a two-step process:

(1) A home language survey, which identifies students who may need English development services based on degree of English language exposure.
(2) An English language assessment, which assesses the student’s language proficiency and confirms the student’s language status.
 

What methods are used to identify English language learners?
Federal Law School districts and charter schools must have a system to determine the language(s) spoken in each students home and to objectively identify students who need language support services due to their limited proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding English.
Alabama Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Alaska Districts are responsible for establishing a plan of service, which must include the district's plan of identification of all pupils who are or who may be ELL pupils. The identification plan must include the use of a state-approved assessment for identification of English language proficiency.
Arizona School districts and charters schools use a home language survey for students enrolling in school for the first time. Students with a primary home language other than English are assessed for English proficiency. Students in grades 2-12 are given a written and verbal exam, while kindergarten and first grade students are only given a verbal exam. 
Arkansas Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
California
Any pupil whose primary language is other than English, as determined by the home language survey, and who has not previously been identified as an ELL by a California public school or for whom there is no record of results from an administration of an English language proficiency test, must be assessed for English language proficiency with the California English Language Development Test.
Colorado
School districts are required to survey all students to determine potential eligibility for inclusion in the district's count for allocation under the English Language Proficiency Act. Eligibility is determined by the information provided by parent and teacher checklists approved by the department of education. The parent checklist is completed by the student's parent in grades K-12, and may be completed by the student in grades 9-12. The teacher checklist is completed by the teacher or the appropriate school official and, whenever possible, by a teacher or school official who speaks the language of the student or who is skilled in English language proficiency assessment. In order to avoid duplication of effort, districts already conducting similar identification procedures may, with the approval of the department, use those procedures to fulfill the requirements of state regulation. A student who is able to speak and understand English and one or more other languages, but whose language dominence is difficult to determine, is assessed using instruments and techniques approved by the department.
Connecticut
According to the department of education, the state's ELL programs are governed by state statutes, the department's ELL guidebook and federal law. The department also indicates that relevant policies codified in the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies pertain to a repealed statute and are not followed.
Delaware
A home language survey is administered as part of the registration process for all registering students. Any student for whom a language other than English is reported must be administered a state department of education approved English language proficiency assessment based on the English Language Proficiency Standards for ELLs K to 12 to assess listening, speaking, reading and writing. The assessment must be conducted by qualified personnel trained in the administration of the assessment instrument. Any student who achieves a score that is lower than the eligibility cut off score in listening, speaking, reading and writing established by the department is identified as an ELL.
District of Columbia Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Florida
Students are surveyed upon initial registration in a public school. The survey contains the following questions:
  1. Is a language other than English used in the home?
  2. Did the student have a first language other than English?
  3. Does the student most frequently speak a language other than English?
Affirmative responses to question 2 or 3, or both, requires that the student be placed in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program until completion of the eligibility assessment. A student for whom the only affirmative response is question 1 does not need to be placed in the ESOL program pending assessment.
 
Each student who responded “yes” to any question on the home language survey is assessed to determine if the student is limited English proficient. In addition, any student identified by the home language survey who also meets one of the following standards is classified as an ELL and must recieve appropriate instruction and funding: 
  • Students in grades K-12 who score within the limited English proficient range on a department of education approved aural and oral language proficiency test or scores below the English proficient level on a department approved assessment in listening and speaking.
  • Any student in grade 3 or above who scores at or below 32nd percentile on reading comprehension and writing or language usage subtests of a nationally norm referenced test or scores below the English proficient level on a department approved assessment in reading and writing.
Upon request of a parent or teacher, a student who is determined not to be an ELL or any student determined to be an ELL based solely on one reading or writing assessment may be referred to an ELL Committee. The parents' preference as to whether a student is determined to be an ELL or not to be an ELL must be considered in the final decision. The ELL Committee must base its decision on at least two of the following criteria in addition to the assessment results:
  • Extent and nature of prior educational or academic experience, social experience, and a student interview;
  • Written recommendation and observation by current and previous instructional and supportive services staff;
  • Level of mastery of basic competencies or skills in English and heritage language according to local, state or national criterion-referenced standards;
  • Grades from the current or previous years; or
  • Test results other than the above-menioned assessments.
Georgia
Prior to entry into a school in Georgia, each student's parent or guardian must complete a home language survey to determine if a language other than English is used in the home or is the student's native language or first language. All students whose native language, first language or language of the home is a language other than English must be assessed for English language proficiency using the state-adopted English proficiency screening measure. Initial eligibility for language assistance services is determined by the student's score. Students who have an English language proficiency score below proficient are determined to be ELLs.
Hawaii Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Idaho Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Illinois
School districts are required to administer, as part of the enrollment process, a home language survey to each student in preK-12 who is entering the district's schools or any of the district's preschool programs for the first time. The survey must include at least the following questions, and the student must be identified as having a language background other than English if the answer to either question is yes:
  • Whether a language other than English is spoken in the student's home and, if so, which language; and
  • Whether the student speaks a language other than English and, if so, which language.
The district is required to screen the English language proficiency of students identified through the home language survey as having a language background other than English by using the prescribed screening instrument applicable to the student's grade level or the prescribed screening procedures identified by the preschool program.

The prescribed screening instrument does not need to be administered to a student who, in his or her previous school district:
  • Has been screened and identified as English language proficient; or
  • Has met the State exit requirements; or
  • Has met all of the following criteria:
    • Resides in a home where a language other than English is spoken, and
    • Has not been screened or identified as an ELL, and
    • Has been enrolled in the general program of instruction in the school he or she has previously attended, and
    • Has been performing at or above grade level as evidenced by having met or exceeded the Illinois Learning Standards in reading and math on the student's most recent State assessment or, for students for whom State assessment scores are not available, a nationally normed standardized test, provided that either assessment was not administered with accommodations for ELLs.
Students whose scores are identified as not “proficient” as defined by the state superintendent of education are considered to be ELLs. For preschool programs using a screening procedure other than an established assessment tool where “proficiency” is defined as part of the instrument, “proficiency” is the point at which performance identifies a child as proficient in English, as set forth in the program's proposed screening process. For any preschool student who scores at the “proficient” level, the school district may consider additional indicators such as teachers' evaluations of performance, samples of a student's work, or information received from family members and school personnel in order to determine whether the student's proficiency in English is limited and the student is eligible for services.

The parent or guardian of any child resident in a school district who has not been identified as an English learner may request the district to determine whether the child should be considered for placement in a bilingual education program, and the school district must make that determination upon request, using the process described above.
Indiana Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Iowa
A school district must use the following criteria:
  • In order to determine the necessity of conducting an English language assessment of any student, the district is required, at the time of registration, to ascertain the place of birth of each student and whether there is a prominent use of any languages other than English in the home. If the student's registration form indicates the prominent use of another language in the student's home, the district must determine the first language acquired by the student and the languages spoken by the student and by others in the student's home. School district personnel are required to be prepared to conduct oral or native language interviews with those adults in the student's home who may not have sufficient skills in English.
  • Students identified as prominently using a language other than English in the home must be assessed by the district. The assessment must include:
    • An assessment of the student's English proficiency in the areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing; and
    • An assessment of the student's academic skills in relation to their grade or age level. A consistent plan of evaluation that includes ongoing evaluation of student progress must be developed and implemented by the district for the above areas for each student identified.
Kansas Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Kentucky Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Louisiana Not specified in state law or administrative regulation
Maine Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Maryland Home language survey and an assessment of English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills that is considered reliable by the state department of education
Massachusetts
Each school district must establish procedures, in accordance with department of education guidelines, to identify students who may be ELLs and assess their level of English proficiency upon their enrollment in the school district. In addition, the parent or guardian of any student enrolled in the school district may request that the school district assess the child's level of English proficiency.
Michigan Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Minnesota Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Mississippi
Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Missouri Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Montana Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Nebraska School districts use a home language survey and English language proficiency exam for students enrolling in school for the first time. Home language surveys must contain at least three questions specified in state regulations and the department provides a sample survey. Students identified as ELL in another Nebraska school district will maintain that classification and the current school district does not need to administer a home language survey or proficiency exam.

School districts are required to administer a home language survey as part of the admission process for all kindergarten students and for all other students new to the district. A sample survey is contained in the administrative code. The survey must ask the following questions:
  • What language did the student first learn to speak?
  • What language is spoken most often by the student?
  • What language does the student most frequently use at home?
School districts must administer an English language proficiency assessment assessing listening, speaking, reading, and writing to students identified using the survey. The district determines the assessment to be valid and reliable. 
Nevada
School districts use a home language survey for students enrolling in school for the first time. Local school boards select the questions and how it is administered, but the survey must address at least the following three topics: language first spoken, primary language spoken in the home, and language most spoken by the student other than English. 
 
Students with a primary language other than English receive an English proficiency exam. Students in grades 2-12 receive a verbal and written exam, and students grades K-1 receive only a verbal exam. School districts must also assess the ability of ELLs in grades 2-12 to comprehend, speak, read and write in their primary languages, unless the student’s primary language is not commonly written. 
New Hampshire Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
New Jersey School districts are responsible for identifying ELLs in grades K-12 with a home language survey, which must be administered by bilingual/ESL certified teachers, and a department-approved language proficiency test. In addition, school districts must maintain a "census" of all students whose native language is not English, including students who live in the district but do not attend a district school.
New Mexico Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
New York Districts must develop a screening process for all newly enrolled students or students with low test scores to determine if the student is of foreign birth or ancestry and comes from a home where a language other than English is spoken. This is determined through a home language questionnaire, an informal interview in English and the native language, and the students' performance on an English proficiency exam. Testing and interviews must be performed by persons trained or qualified in the student's home language.

Starting in 2015-2016: A student identified as an ELL who has attended schools in the U.S. for fewer than twelve months and is two or more years below grade level due to interrupted or inconsistent schooling will also be identified as a student with inconsistent/interrupted formal education.
North Carolina Districts administer a home language survey to every student at the time of enrollment, which is maintained in the student's permanent record. Districts then identify and assess every limited English proficient student. Districts are charged with adopting an effective method of determining the students' current level of English proficiency that may be a combination of the following, unless some other method can be effectively substituted: teacher observations; teacher interview; achievement tests; review of student records; parent information; proficiency tests; English as a second language teacher referral; student course grades; teacher referral or recommendation; criterion-referenced tests; grade retention or deficiency report; informal assessment or screening; portfolio-based assessment; and alternative assessments such as cloze and dictation.
North Dakota The assessment process must follow the North Dakota English language proficiency assessment program and be supervised by a teacher of English as a second language or a bilingual education teacher. A school district may use a screening protocol prior to conducting the assessment. Criteria for the screening protocol may include observation, a checklist, writing samples, and other indicators of language proficiency. The assessment process will result in classification of the student by determining whether the student has preliterate - level I, beginning - level II, intermediate - level III, basic - level IV, or proficient - level V English language skills.
Ohio Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Oklahoma State policy directs the department of education to adopt an English proficiency assessment and directs school districts to screen and identify ELLs. The process is governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Oregon Districts must develop a plan for identifying students whose primary language is other than English.
Pennsylvania Districts must administer a home language survey to all students enrolling in school for the first time. The process for identifying students as ELLs is governed by the department of education's ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Rhode Island Districts must use a home language survey developed by the department of education and a department-approved English proficiency assessment. The department-approved assessment is the WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test or screener. Tests and screeners must be administered by qualified assessors. The following levels of English proficiency are recognized: entering; beginning; developing; expanding; bridging; and reaching. To assist in program decisions, any student scoring at the developing, expanding, or bridging Level must be given an additional English reading assessment. When possible, a reading assessment in the first language of the student will be given to all ELLs regardless of proficiency level. All available test data from the student's previous schools must be used in the placement process.
South Carolina Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
South Dakota Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Tennessee Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Texas School districts are required to conduct a home language survey of each student who is new to the district or who has not been previously surveyed. The survey contains two questions:
  • What language is spoken in your home most of the time?
  • What language does your child speak most of the time?
To identify ELLs, districts are required administer to students identified on the home language survey:
  • In prekindergarten through grade 1, an oral language proficiency test approved by the state department of education; and
  • In grades 2-12, a department-approved oral language proficiency test and the English reading and English language arts sections from a department-approved norm-referenced assessment, or another test approved by the department.
The grade levels and the scores on each test that are used to identify a student as an ELL are established by the department. The commissioner of education is required to review the approved list of tests, grade levels and scores annually and update the list.
Utah Local boards of education and charter schools must have a process to find ELLs, including administering a home language survey at student registration and a language proficiency exam. The state board of education must provide an identification and placement procedure model to local boards.
Vermont Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.
Virginia Local school boards implement programs to identify ELLs.
Washington Local school boards must create procedures for identifying every student's primary language. The procedures must include a home language survey and provisions for testing potential ELLs using a state-approved language proficiency exam.
West Virginia Counties and local boards of education are responsible for screening newly enrolled students to identify ELLs. Identification methods are based on criteria established by the department of education.
Wisconsin School districts must, as part of the enrollment process, use a home language survey and department-approved English proficiency assessment identify as potential ELLs pupils meeting any of the following criteria: pupils who communicate in a language other than English; pupils whose families use a language other than English; or pupils who use a language other than English in daily non-school surroundings. The English language proficiency assessment procedures may include supplemental indicators or data that include any of the following: (1) prior academic records from within or outside the U.S.; (2) course grades that indicate that lack of progress is due to limited English language skills; (3) information on everyday classroom performance.
Wyoming Governed by the department of education’s ELL guidebook or federal law rather than state policy.


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