English Language Learners
“Many voices, many cultures, one world!”
We strive to support and educate all English Language Learners to become fully proficient in English and to gain an understanding of U.S. cultures so that they can be successful citizens in our dynamic global society by engaging in meaningful collaboration with all staff members who participate in the students’ academic and personal development.
Dr. Inna Slisher
English Language Learner Supervisor and Region 3 ELL Representative
Welcome Center Manager
Sonja Stryker Warren
Welcome Center Administrative Assistant
Dr. Hannah Oesch
Region One ELL Facilitator
Region Two ELL Facilitator
Region Three ELL Facilitator
Region Four ELL Facilitator
Title III Administrative Assistant
How are potential English Language learners (EL) identified?
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, Language Minority Compliance Procedure requires LEAs to identify Limited English Proficient [LEP] students. The State of Tennessee program policy states that a two-step process must identify ELLs. The first step is the administration of the Home Language Survey [HLS]. The second step, if applicable, is the administration of the WIDA screener by a WIDA certified, licensed ESL teacher. According to the KCS Title III program service requirements, all students registering for the FIRST time in a school must be given a Home Language Survey. The HLS is only to be given once in a student’s career. If a student arrives from another district, every effort must be made to locate the original home language survey. Every HLS in the state of Tennessee should include the following questions:
- What is the first language this child learned to speak?
- What language does this child speak most often outside of school?
- What is the language that is most often spoken to the student at home?
These three questions refer to languages that are spoken consistently. Non-examples are if a student is learning Spanish in after-school care or if a student’s Kirundi-speaking grandmother visits several times a year; parents sometimes will write another language to describe such circumstances but the intent of the questions is to determine which language(s) the child hears and speaks on a consistent basis.
If any language other than English is written in response to one or more of these questions, even if the responses say “English/Spanish,” districts are required to test the student to determine if he/she qualifies for ELL services. If the student is deaf or blind or has pervasive disabilities, the ELL teacher should contact the ELL Supervisor for further guidance.
What are ELL services?
A variety of delivery models is utilized in KCS for serving the ELL populations. Based on need, the enrollment of ELs, staffing, and other considerations, administrators should work in conjunction with the ELL Supervisor to implement service models that will be best for their schools. Pull-out, push-in, and co-teaching models are used.
Pull-out services: This model is used by most of the elementary schools in KCS. ELL teachers provide direct services during a block of time. This is a program model in which the ELL teacher pulls the student from his or her regular classroom to provide ELL services during a block of time. The learning experience is not optimal if newcomers are grouped with ELs who have an intermediate proficiency.
Push-in services: This is a program model in which the ELL teacher “pushes-in” to the regular classroom and provides ELL support in the regular classroom. Research has proven this model is most effective for ELs with a high proficiency in English. However, this model often results in the ELL teacher being utilized as a tutor or an aide. Administrators and teachers should be mindful of the fact that ELL teachers are still required to teach ELL standards to students during this time.
Co-teaching: A true co-teaching model is one in which the ELL teacher and the classroom teacher are equally responsible for planning and instruction. Outside observers visiting a co-taught class would not necessarily be able to name the ELL teacher or the content teacher.
Scheduled, For-Credit Class: This type of class occurs at the high schools. In this model, students have ELL class as a scheduled class and they receive grades/credit for participating in the class. Students should be scheduled for ELL classes based on their levels of English Language Proficiency, not by grade levels.
Who are ELL teachers?
ELL teachers are language acquisition experts who understand the unique needs and challenges of students who do not communicate in English as native speakers. ELL educators do not just teach English; they understand that students must learn about the sounds (phonology), words (lexicon), and sentence formation of the language (syntax and semantics) —this knowledge does not necessarily include content. Understanding and communicating in English can prevent a student from being able to express his/her understanding and ability to demonstrate mastery.
High-quality ELL lessons should incorporate the four domains of communication: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Visuals are also an essential component of instruction; visuals allow students to link pictures or images to a concept or word. Repetition is also key. Front-loading or pre-teaching of vocabulary and concepts is essential for students to know what to expect and how to relate that information to previously learned material. Teachers should also incorporate real-world materials and teach vocabulary in context. In addition, teachers should use basic English and avoid idioms and complex language when possible (particularly with lower proficiency ELs).
What is the State Rule for ELL service?
Please click here to access Rules of the State Board of Education, CHAPTER 0520-01-19 ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE PROGRAMS
How does an EL student exit the program?
For the 2022-2023 school year, if a student scores a minimum of 4.2 in Literacy and earns a 4.4 composite score, he/she has demonstrated proficiency and becomes a T1 (Transition 1st year) student. T1 students are not active ELs and do not receive direct services from ELL teachers. ELL teachers monitor the academic progress of T1s for two years; the second year of transition is the last one for ELL students to be monitored. T1 and T2 students have essentially “tested out” of ELL by passing the ACCESS; however, classroom teachers are required to continue to make modifications so that students can access the content.
Can a student continue receiving EL services after exiting the EL program?
Some ELs may struggle in their content classes even though they have been deemed proficient in English and met the criteria to be exited from ESL services. The transitional period under Title III is in place for this very reason - to determine if transitional ELs require instructional accommodations in some of their content classes. If, during the transitional period, there is evidence that a student is struggling in one or more content areas, the first step is to ensure that the student is provided with any instructional support available in the school and to notify the RTI2 team of the student’s lack of academic progress and success. When considering a student’s second language acquisition time frame, the following questions may be useful in guiding the process:
- Was the student formally educated in their home country? Did he/she have consistent schooling, or were there prolonged periods of interrupted or no schooling?
- What were the student’s ACCESS scores and subscores in each domain?
- Were the student’s achievement scores borderline for meeting standards, or were they significantly above the minimum requirement?
- What are the student’s areas of difficulty in the content courses they are struggling with? Is the teacher using appropriate accommodations in the classroom?
- Is the student having difficulty specifically in the domain of writing or reading, or are there factors outside of language involved?
- If the student is struggling in a particular course, is it a course in which he/she has always had difficulty?
- Are teachers differentiating instruction specifically to reach and support ELs?
- Is the student receiving academic support to compensate for any lack of background information?
- Are there reasons, other than language, that the student is not succeeding in content classrooms?
- Are content teachers still providing necessary modifications for the student to be able to access the content?
- Is something causing a lack of motivation or effort from the student that is causing issues with schoolwork?
- Have teachers provided additional modifications/scaffolding upon seeing the student struggle?
- Do benchmark scores/other data show a need for additional services, like RTI?
- Is there a particular aspect of schoolwork that the student is struggling with (i.e., homework because there is no one to help at home, etc.)?
Reclassifying a Transitional EL
A transitional EL experiencing academic difficulties should not be immediately reclassified as an EL. As noted above, appropriate instructional supports, including RTI2, should be implemented. If those additional instructional supports do not resolve the issue, the RTI2 committee should review the documentation and, if appropriate, implement more intensive Tier II and III interventions. An ESL professional should be included in these discussions and decisions. All Tier II and III interventions must be linguistically accessible to the student.
The RTI2 team should review the student’s data and determine next steps, appropriate interventions, and any potential increased tier transitional for RTI2 purposes. After these interventions have been put in place and progress has been measured over time, the RTI2 team, working with an ESL professional, should determine whether the student is struggling due to a lack of content knowledge or a lack of English proficiency. Educators reviewing the data must determine if a student’s academic difficulties are due to a lack of English proficiency, rather than a lack of content knowledge, cognitive issues, or a disability.
A transitional student should only be reclassified if it is determined that they are struggling academically due to a lack of English proficiency and that accommodations are not adequate for the student to experience academic success. This may happen when the cognitive load with grade-level work is increasing faster than gains in English language proficiency.
Following a documented period of Tier III RTI2 support, if academic difficulties persist and data support the belief that language proficiency is the root of the problem, the RTI2 committee may determine that the student should re-enter the ESL program. No rescreening is necessary to reclassify a student as an EL during the transitional period. A reclassification procedure should address the following:
- Instructional supports within the classroom
- RTI2 procedures
- Analysis of English language proficiency
- Progress monitoring data
If a parent does not wish for their child to receive EL services, what should they do?
Parents cannot waive ELL services until the student officially qualifies as an English Language Learner per the score on the WIDA Screener. It is essential to understand that parents are waiving services for their minor children; they waive the right to the dedicated program and direct ELL services. Once a child is an official EL waiver, the regular classroom teacher has the legal obligation of meeting the students’ ELL needs.
Once a student turns 18, he/she can legally waive ELL services by signing the waiver document. This form should be signed in the presence of or in consultation with someone from the ELL Department. Copies of the waiver should be forwarded to the ELL Department and be kept in the ELL file in the student’s Cumulative Record [CR].
A waiver of ELL services is only a waiver of the delivery of ELL services by an ELL teacher; ELL waiver students still have the right to accommodations for standardized testing as well as modifications in the classroom. Parents/ guardians can un-waive ELL services and request that their English Language Learner receive direct services with an ELL teacher at any time. Waiver students must still take the ACCESS Test each spring until they meet exit criteria and they still count in the official number of enrolled ELs in the district.
To un-waive services, the parent(s) should contact the ELL teacher at his/her child’s school or the ELL Supervisor; if the child is enrolled at a non-service school and chooses to un-waive, the parents should contact the school so that personnel can communicate with the ELL teacher responsible for that school and arrange transportation. The “ELL Waiver to Active Request form” to make this request is available online.
What is WIDA?
The World-Class Instructional Design Assessment Consortium is a consortium of 41 states and the District of Columbia dedicated to the design and implementation of high standards and equitable educational opportunities for English language learners. Tennessee joined the WIDA Consortium in 2014.
By joining the WIDA consortium, Tennessee adopted the WIDA English Language Proficiency Standards that are designed to assess the progress of children in attaining English proficiency, including a child’s level of comprehension in the four recognized domains of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The WIDA English Language Proficiency Standards are based on the academic language content of PreK-12 students.
What WIDA resources are available for Family Engagement?
What is WIDA ACCESS?
ACCESS 2.0 is administered annually to all English Language Learners in Tennessee. It is a standards-based, criterion referenced English language proficiency test designed to measure English Language Learners’ social and academic proficiency and progress in English. It assesses social and instructional English as well as the language associated with language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies within the school context across the four language domains of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. ACCESS for ELLs meets the federal mandate requiring states to evaluate ELL students in grades K through 12 on their progress in learning to speak English.
All students identified as ELLs must take the ACCESS for ELLs, including students whose parents have waived Language Instruction Educational Program; however, students who have formally exited language assistance services and are in monitored status (Transition) do not take the assessment.
WIDA Proficiency Levels for ELs:
- Level 1 - Entering
- Level 2 - Beginning
- Level 3 - Developing
- Level 4 - Expanding
- Level 5 - Bridging
- Level 6 - Reaching
What is WIDA Screener?
The WIDA Screener is the assessment tool used by educators to measure the English language proficiency of potential ELLs. This screening tool is used to determine whether a child is eligible for English language instructional services.
Can an EL student receive Special Education services?
One of the most difficult challenges for teachers of English Language Learners to address is the question of special education services for ELLs. To ensure that misidentification does not occur, it is important to consider both the academic development and cultural background of the English Learner. It is also important to note that even though it may take five to seven years for ELLs to develop academic language, there is no need to withhold any support services that a student might need during that time. On a superficial level, the way that academic and language difficulties manifest among ELLs can be very similar to the way such difficulties manifest among students with long-term disabilities or special needs. For this reason, it is important to get a better sense of the specific needs and challenges that are present; it is also necessary to determine if those challenges exist in English only or also in the student’s native language. If students have difficulty understanding content or communicating in English only, the determining factor could be a low proficiency in English. If the EL struggles in his/her native language, as well as in English, the issue might not be related solely to a low English proficiency.
If a student exhibits characteristics of a learning disability or other similar condition, he/she will likely not pass the screener, as it assesses writing and reading. Also, if a student has no language, a team of professionals with related expertise should meet to determine appropriate placement; the team should consider the most appropriate placement if a student does not have language at all. Similarly, if students have Individualized Education Plans [IEPs] with primary goals such as toileting, living skills, or social skills, ELL may not be the appropriate placement, as English proficiency is not the main focus. Refer to the Resources page for suggestions for additional reading.
The following questions and “ELL Ethnographic Interview Questions”should be considered before referring an EL for Special Education services:
- Has the WIDA Screener or ACCESS for ELLs been administered? If so, what is the student's language proficiency level?
- Is there evidence that the student is currently receiving appropriate ELL services?
- Is there evidence that the general education curriculum is being appropriately accommodated for ELs?
- Are appropriate accommodations and modifications within the regular classroom being provided consistently that address the specific language needs of the ELL?
- Is there evidence of prior interrupted formal education? (Student with Interrupted Formal Education)
- Has the student had consistent access to formal education in the United States for more than one calendar year?
- Is it possible that the student is still in his/her silent phase (can last up to 18 months)?
- Is the student making adequate progress (as defined by the second language acquisition process) through the interventions and accommodations that have been provided?
- Is there evidence that the student’s behavior is significantly different from grade level peers? Is there evidence that this is not due to frustration over the target language?
- Has the student been observed in multiple settings (classroom, cafeteria, playground, bus, etc.) to compare his/her behavior to that of grade level ELL peers with similar exposure to language and instruction?
- Have parents been interviewed in their native language to determine behaviors at home? Is the home behavior appropriate in the student’s culture? Is the behavior appropriate for a typical classroom in the country of origin?
- Have there been any traumatic events associated with departure from the home country or arrival in the United States? If so, is the student receiving counseling, or has the student been prescribed any medication as pertains to the trauma?
- Is the student a refugee or has the student lived in a refugee camp?
- Are the behaviors exhibited similar to peers of the same linguistic and/or cultural group?
- Is the student’s development markedly different from that of siblings in regards to reading, expressive language, and receptive language?
What accommodations does an EL student receive in the classroom, if any?
ELL teachers are wonderful resources for regular classroom teachers; they can suggest ways for them to modify the assignment and to reduce the level of complexity of language. However, it is not the responsibility of the ELL teachers to modify the assignments and tests for ELs. ELs have a legal right to have access to the content; this means that regular classroom teachers have the responsibility of making these modifications as appropriate. The following accommodations are examples of what may be offered based on the student’s learning plan.
- Additional time to complete assessments
- Allowing students to provide visual representations as answers
- Contextualizing vocabulary and concepts using a graphic organizer or word map
- Directions repeated or read aloud to student
- Enhance format (graphic organizer, matcher, short answer, reduced multiple choice)
- Extra learning or extension opportunities
- Grading work holistically and for comprehensibility, not deducting points for grammar
- Heterogeneous grouping
- Highlighting or marking important ideas/concepts in the text
- Incorporate diverse cultures, languages; allow EL to contribute, share about her culture
- Incorporation of audio (ex. Record lessons, vocabulary words)
- Linguistically simplified or abbreviated test or quiz (reduce unnecessary words, idiomatic expressions)
- Linguistically simplified/ abbreviated reading selection
- Opportunities to re-try or re-do assignments and assessments
- Oral Testing (allow students to explain answers)
- Pre-teaching or front-loading of vocabulary and concepts
- Provide student copies of class notes or chapter summaries in simplified English
- Providing a word bank and sentence frames
- Read Test Items aloud to student
- Seat student near area of instruction
- Use of bilingual dictionary (if fluent in native language and used to using dictionary)
- Use of dual language or word-to-word bilingual dictionary
- Use of manipulatives, flashcards, or other tactile/hands-on activities
- Use of peer tutor or buddy system
- Use of visuals
- Wait time
Is ELL an intervention program?
High quality, scaffolded Tier 1 instruction is crucial for the academic success of ELs. ELL teachers are an integral part of the RTI2 process and should be included in team decisions concerning ELs. Schools should not exclude ELs from Tier 2 or 3 Interventions simply because they are ELs; likewise, not every EL should automatically receive Tier 2 or 3 Interventions simply based on the fact that he/she is not a native English speaker.
Tier II and Tier III Interventions for Els:
- English Language Learners who have been in the country for less than one year will benefit most from additional services and support from the ELL teacher. Because these students do not have a large vocabulary in English, they need more time and support to acquire the language and would likely not benefit as much from a targeted intervention not designed specifically for ELs. For students who have a higher proficiency in English (such as a high 3, level 4 or 5), interventions geared toward a more general student population are appropriate. ELL is not an intervention and it’s core Tier 1 instruction; per state law, students with below intermediate proficiency must receive an hour of ELL services every day. This time cannot count towards intervention time, although time above the mandated hour can.
Dr. Inna Slisher
English Language Learner Supervisor
Welcome Center Manager
Sonja Stryker Warren
Welcome Center Administrative Assistant
Dr. Hannah Oesch
Instructional Coach - Region One
Instructional Coach - Region Two
Instructional Coach - Region Three
Instructional Coach - Region Four
Title III Administrative Assistant