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The enrollment of any new student to the district must include a Home Language Survey. Potential ELs must be screened and placed in EL services if they qualify. Additionally, all ELs must take the annual English language proficiency assessment (ACCESS). Districts must make annual placement determinations for ELs based on the ACCESS scores.​

 Enrollment

School staff often have questions concerning the enrollment of immigrant school-age children. The laws of Illinois and the United States guarantee all students in Illinois access to a quality education. This requires every district to guarantee all students equal access to the full range of programs and resources. Equal access is influenced by admission policies adopted at the district level and implemented at the school level. By law, immigrant students are entitled to the same access as nonimmigrant students, In Illinois today the growing number of immigrant and non-English-speaking students and changes in immigration law continue to generate questions and concerns about how to fulfill administrative duties without infringing upon children's educational rights.

This information is provided to help districts understand their role in regard to immigrant students. The State Board, with the assistance of its Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education. had prepared the following answers to common questions about the enrollment of immigrant and non-English speaking students.

  1. Fact Sheet: Information on the Rights of All Children to Enroll in SchoolPDF Document
  2. Information on the Rights of All Children to Enroll in School: Questions and Answers for States, School Districts and ParentsPDF Document

 Home Language Survey, Identification and Screening of English Learners

How do you know if a student enrolling in your district is an English Learner (EL) 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 in the section entitled "Home Language Surveys" below.
  2. Assess, through a language screener, 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 English Learner (EL), provide services as required based on the individual student's needs.

Why is an English language proficiency test/screener required?

The Illinois Administrative Code, Part 228PDF Document, Section 228.15 indicates districts shall administer an individual language proficiency assessment to each student identified through the home language survey. This assessment shall take place within 30 days of the student's enrollment in the district, for the purpose of determining the student's eligibility for bilingual education services.

Who can administer the ACCESS for ELLs, WIDA Screener and WIDA MODEL?

Annually report identified EL students on the Student Information System (SIS)​​​.​

 Why is an English language proficiency test required?

The Illinois Administrative Code, Part 228PDF Document, Section 228.15 indicates districts shall administer an individual language proficiency assessment to each student identified through the home language survey. This assessment shall take place within 30 days of the student's enrollment in the district, for the purpose of determining the student's eligibility for bilingual education services.​​​

 Screening Potential English Learners

See the table below for grade specific information about the screener

Grade Screener Cut Score
Prekindergarten ages 3-5 Pre IPT- Oral (Recommended screener) Fluent English Speaker (FES)
1st semester of Kindergarten WIDA MODEL (listening and speaking) (Required Screener) 5.0 oral language proficiency
2nd Semester of K-1st Semester of 1st grade WIDA MODEL (all four domains) (Required Screener) Overall Composite 5.0 & Composite Literacy 4.2 (reading/writing)
2nd Semester of 1st grade - 12th grade WIDA Screener (online or paper) (Required Screener) Overall Composite 5.0​

Preschool-Age

  • Prescribed Screening Instrument(s)
    The Pre-IPT Oral English Language Proficiency Test is the recommended screener for children entering Preschool, ages 3 to kindergarten enrollment age as defined in Section 10-20.12 of the School Code [105 ILCS 5/10-20.12] to determine students' English language proficiency and to identify students eligible to receive English Learner services.
  • Using Scores to Determine Placement 
    Districts should use the guidance included in the pre-IPT Oral for purposes of placing students. All potential ELs screened with the Pre-IPT Oral that qualify for EL services need to be rescreened with the WIDA MODEL upon entering Kindergarten.
  • Training to Administer the Pre-IPT Oral
    Online training for administering the Pre-IPT Oral is available at www.ballard-tighe.com.
  • Ordering the Pre-IPT Oral
    For information about ordering the Pre-IPT Oral assessment, please contact Melissa Cortez at mcortez@ballard-tighe.com or at 800-321-4332 ext. 203. ​

Kindergarten

  • Prescribed Screening Instrument
    MMeasure of Developing English Language (MODEL)
    The WIDA MODEL must be used as a screener for students entering Kindergarten and the first semester of first grade to determine students' English language proficiency and to identify students eligible to receive EL services.
  • Using Scores to Determine Placement
    As of January 1, 2014, any child entering the first semester of kindergarten who is administered the MODEL and who scores below a 5.0 oral language composite (speaking/listening) proficiency level is considered an English Learner (EL) and is eligible for EL services. A student entering the first semester of kindergarten who achieves a 5.0 oral language composite (speaking/listening) proficiency level is considered English proficient. See the chart below to determine eligibility for children in their second semester of kindergarten and the first semester of first grade.
  • Training for MODEL Test Administration
    The MODEL is to be administered by certificated instructional personnel (teachers including bilingual teachers and ESL teachers) and certificated non-instructional personnel (coordinators, program directors, school psychologists, speech and language therapists, assistant principals, principals, assistant superintendents and superintendents) who have completed the new Kindergarten Component of the ACCESS for ELLs Training, passed the online quizzes and meet certification requirements to administer ACCESS for ELLs.
  • Ordering WIDA MODEL
    Information about ordering and administering the WIDA MODEL is available on the WIDA website.

Grades 1 (2nd Semester) - 12

The WIDA screener, in online and paper format, is a placement test aligned to WIDA's standard setting. The online version will function similarly to the online version of ACCESS 2.0, using the WIDA AMS website and DRC software components. However, the online system will only score the listening and reading domains. Writing and speaking will be scored by local district staff. The online WIDA Screener is available at no cost to IL districts. The paper version is available for purchase in the WIDA Store . Information about trainings for the WIDA screener can be found on the WIDA website.

Illinois will continue to use the WIDA MODEL for screening in Kindergarten and the 1st semester of 1st grade.

  • Prescribed Screening Instrument 
    Beginning June 30th, 2017, the screening tool for 1st grade, 2nd semester through grade 12 is the WIDA Screener. The MODEL is now only for use at Kindergarten and 1st grade, 1st semester.
  • Using Scores to Determine Placement 
    When administering the WIDA Screener, the EL placement criteria is 5.0 for the Overall Composite score. There are no individual domain requirements.
  • Training for W-APT or the MODEL Test Administration
    The WIDA Screener is to be administered by certificated instructional personnel (teachers including bilingual teachers and ESL teachers) and certificated non-instructional personnel (coordinators, program directors, school psychologists, speech and language therapists, assistant principals, principals, assistant superintendents and superintendents) who have completed the WIDA Screener training and passed the online quizzes.
  • How to get the WIDA Screener
    The WIDA Screener is available either online or on paper. The WIDA Screener Online is used via WIDA AMS. It is built into ACCES 2.0 software, and functions similarly. That software may be downloaded, at no cost, from the WIDA AMS website. An account is required. A paper version of the WIDA Screener may be purchased from the WIDA Store

For information about ordering and administering the WIDA MODEL see Kindergarten above.​

 After Screening Has Been Completed

Do parents need to be notified of screening results?

Yes, if a student is determined to be an English Learner (EL), the district must inform parents in writing of the results of the assessment and the program placement recommendations, describing the services that are available to assist the student to become English language proficient. Sample parent notification letters are available in English and 40 other languages on the ISBE website.

Can parents refuse language services?

Yes, to refuse language support services, parents must provide the district with a signed, written statement that they are refusing services. However, this parental statement does not relinquish the district from its obligation to provide a meaningful education to the student and to continue to annually assess the student's language proficiency with the ACCESS for ELLs.​

 Instances when potential ELs are not required to be screened

Per 23 Ill. Admin. Code 228.15PDF Document, potential ELs are not required to be screened AND are immediately placed in EL services if the following are true:

  • The student was screened in another district in Illinois or another WIDA state at Kindergarten or later and the student did not meet the Illinois criteria for English language proficiency (ELP); OR
  • The student took ACCESS in another district in Illinois or another WIDA state within the last year (scores are not older than 12 months) and the student did not meet the Illinois criteria for ELP.

Potential ELs are not required to be screened AND are NOT placed in EL services if the following are true:

  • The student was screened in another district in Illinois and met ELP on the screener; OR
  • The student took ACCESS in Illinois and met ELP; OR
  • The student was screened in another WIDA state within the last year (scores are not older than 12 months) and the screener scores place the student as meeting ELP in Illinois; OR
  • The student took ACCESS in another WIDA state within the last year (scores are not older than 12 months) and the scores place the student as meeting ELP in Illinois; OR
  • The student has met the following criteria from 23 Ill. Admin. Code 228.15​PDF Document(e)(1)(c):
    • The student was identified as a potential EL with the Home Language Survey, AND
    • The student has not been screened or identified as an EL in the past year, AND
    • The student was enrolled in a general program of instruction without EL supports last school year (in Illinois or another state), AND
    • The student met or exceeded standards in the State's English Language Arts Assessment (in Illinois or another state).

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