English Language Learning

Access and Identification

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 Identifying ELLs in Your District

How do you know if a student enrolling in your district is Limited English Proficient (LEP) (also called an English Language Learner (ELL)) and is eligible for language support services?

Follow these steps:

  1. Administer a Home Language Survey to ALL students (Preschool - Grade 12) newly registering in your district.  Sample Home Language Surveys are available on the ISBE website in English and forty other languages. 
  2. Assess the English language proficiency of all students whose parents answered "yes" to one or both of the Home Language Survey questions, "Is a language other than English spoken in the home?' and "Does the student speak a language other than English?"
  3. If the student is identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP), provide services as required based on the individual student's needs.
  4. Annually report identified LEP students on the Student Information System (SIS).

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 Screening for English Language Proficiency & Screeners   (12/19/14)

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 2014-2015 English Language Proficiency Assessment – ACCESS for ELLs and Alternate ACCESS for ELLS


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School districts must annually assess the English language proficiency, including aural comprehension (listening), speaking, reading, and writing skills, of ALL children of limited English-speaking ability in kindergarten and any of grades 1 through 12  (Section 14C-3 of the School Code) using the English language proficiency assessment prescribed by the State Superintendent of Education.

1. Why is an annual assessment of English Language Proficiency Required?

An annual English Language Proficiency test is required under No Child Left Behind legislation passed in 2001.  NCLB indicates that all K-12 English language learners must be assessed annually for English proficiency growth (Title III) and academic progress (Title I). School districts receiving Title III grant resources will be held accountable under the Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) provision of NCLB.  In addition,  the Illinois Administrative Code, Part 228, Section 228.15(e) and 228.25(c) outlines detailed information regarding the English language proficiency required in Illinois.

2. What is ACCESS for ELLs?

ACCESS for ELLs is a standards-based, criterion referenced English language proficiency test designed to measure English language learners' social and academic proficiency 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. The secure full-scale ACCESS for ELLs assessment will be distributed at no cost to public schools.

3. What is the difference between ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT screener and MODEL?   

The W-APT and MODEL are modeled after the ACCESS for ELLs®, but their purposes differ in important ways.  The W-APT and MODEL are screening instruments designed to assess English language proficiency primarily to determine eligibility for and placement within an ELL program.  The ACCESS for ELLs is an annual assessment designed to assess student progress in achieving English language proficiency.  For more information on how these tests differ visit:

4. Who needs to take ACCESS for ELLs?

All public school districts are required to assess annually all identified English Language Learners (ELLs)/Limited English Proficient (LEP) students in grades K-12 using the ACCESS for ELLs assessment until the students test as English language proficient.  This includes all identified students whose parents have refused language support services.  All LEP students must be tested until they achieve the state prescribed minimum score to be considered English language proficient.

5. What proficiency level score does a student have to obtain to be considered English language proficient? 

As of January 1, 2014, students who obtain an overall composite proficiency level of 5.0 as well as a reading proficiency level of 4.2 and a writing proficiency level of 4.2 on the annually administered state approved English language proficiency test, ACCESS for ELLs, are to be considered English language proficient.

Districts with additional questions regarding the determination of English language proficiency are encouraged to call the Division of English Language Learning at 312-814-3850.

6. Who can administer the ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT Screener, and WIDA MODEL assessment?


7. How do I get trained to administer the ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT Screener, and WIDA MODEL?


8. Are private schools required to give ACCESS for ELLs®?

The Local Educational Agency (LEA) is required to consult with private schools regarding Title III, Part A specifically to determine how their ELL/LEP students will be identified and served.  The LEA is responsible for assessing the English language proficiency of private school students and may be able to use Title III Part A funds to pay for initial LEP assessments for these students. (Please note: funds cannot supplant other federal, state and/or local funds.)

Private schools are NOT required to use ACCESS for ELLs as recipients of Federal Title III program services. However, private schools seeking Title III program services, through their Local Educational Agency (LEA), must demonstrate that the English language proficiency of all students they report to their LEAs is assessed annually and that each student is limited English proficient. Private schools can accomplish this by using a WIDA ACCESS™ Placement Test (W-APT Screener or WIDA MODEL)* available free of charge at this website. Private school staff administering the screener must be trained to administer and score the W-APT Screener or WIDA MODEL.

The secure ACCESS for ELLs® is also currently available for private schools within the WIDA Consortium member states. Only private schools that agree to abide by confidentiality policies and security will be granted permission to order booklets at their own expense directly from MetriTech. Private schools interested in ordering materials should call Tim Boals at 608-267-1290.

9. What is the procedure for the ACCESS/Alternate ACCESS administration when an EL Transfers in/out before or during the ACCESS testing window?

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 Academic Assessment Resources for ELLs


 ACCESS for ELLs Assessment Archive

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