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This page contains information and resources on the identification of newly enrolled English learners (ELs). The enrollment of any new student to a district must include a Home Language SurveyPDF Document. Potential ELs must be screened and placed in EL services if they qualify. Districts must make annual placement determinations for ELs based on the ACCESS scores.​

 Enrollment

Immigrant Students

Existing law guarantees immigrant and students who don’t speak English a free public education from kindergarten through Grade 12 up until the age of 21 regardless of immigrant status. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that undocumented children have the same right as U.S. citizens and permanent residents to receive a free public education.

Schools are required to provide undocumented immigrant students the same benefits and services made available to other students. Therefore, when determining eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch and/or breakfast programs under the School Lunch Act, do not reject applications that do not have the parent's Social Security number. Parents without Social Security numbers need only indicate on the application that they do not have a number. Districts must make it clear that any and all information provided is used solely to obtain federal funds.

School personnel, especially building principals and those involved in student intake activities, have no legal obligation to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Conversely, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has no legal authority to determine or infringe on district residency policies.

Districts heavily affected by the enrollment of immigrant students (documented and undocumented) may qualify for Federal Emergency Immigrant Education Program funds through the State Board and should take full advantage of them. Districts may also be eligible for funding through the State Transitional Bilingual Education Program for limited English speakers or the federal Title VII program.

Social Security Numbers

The law prohibits any action that might have a "chilling" effect on the right of access to schools; therefore, districts must not require parents or adult caretakers to provide information concerning their or their children's immigrant status. Policies or procedures that condition services or benefits by requiring a child's or a parent's Social Security number must be amended because these practices have the effect of exposing the immigration status of undocumented students or their parents. Districts should assign a school-generated identification number if a number is needed for identification or administrative purposes to avoid infringing upon undocumented students' rights. Similarly, when implementing residency policies, care must be taken to ensure that parents do not indirectly reveal their immigration status. Thus, districts may accept – but cannot mandate -- as proof of residency that parents or adult caretakers provide either an Illinois driver's license or a state identification card, both of  which require Social Security numbers.

Residency

Districts may accept -- but cannot mandate -- as proof of residency that parents or adult caretakers provide either an Illinois driver's license or a state identification card, both of which require Social Security numbers. It is not uncommon to find children who do not live in the same household as their parents among immigrants and families that don’t speak English. To safeguard immigrant students' right to a free public education, Local Education Agencies must not conclude that children who live within the district -- but apart from their parents -- must be charged tuition as if they were a non-resident.

Guardianship

Districts must proceed with flexibility when determining a child’s residency, even if it is questionable whether the child lives apart from the parent simply to access educational programs. Districts cannot mandate adult caretakers or relatives with whom a child lives to establish legal guardianship as a condition for gaining access to the district's schools. Districts may require reasonable assurance from the responsible adult caretaker that they accept responsibility for the child. This may be done through a notarized affidavit.

International Student/F-1 Visa

The F-1 Visa Program allows non-immigrant foreign students from outside the United States to apply for student visas to attend our public schools. Recent changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act require districts to charge out-of-district tuition and limit attendance to 12 months. These changes do not affect J-1 (foreign exchange) students; F-2 (dependents of F-1) students; or students whose parents are here as diplomats, researchers, or foreign workers. Students attending private schools are not affected by the amendment. This amendment does not affect immigrant students residing in the United States nor does it alter a district's obligations to undocumented children since the changes made to the F-1 Visa Program only affect students specifically seeking F-1 status from outside the United States.

Rights of All Children

 Identification

​​New Student

How do you know if a student enrolling in your district is an English learner and is eligible for language support services?

Follow these steps:
  • 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 titled "Home Language Surveys" below.
  • 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?"
  • If the student is identified as an EL, provide services as required based on the individual student's needs.
The Illinois Administrative Code, Part 228​PDF Document , Section 228.15 indicates districts shall administer an individual language proficiency assessment to each student identified via 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.

Annual Reporting

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

 Home Language Surveys

 Screener/English Language Proficiency Test

RULES

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.​​​

Test Administration

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

Grade Specific

See the table below for grade specific information about the screener

Grade
Screener Cut Score
Prekindergarten ages 3-5 Multiple vendors and procedures
(IL Admin Code 228.10PDF Document)
Fluent English speaker as determined by the specific instrument’s scoring criteria/rubric
1st semester of Kindergarten WIDA Screener for Kindergarten or WIDA MODEL (listening and speaking) (Note: WIDA MODEL will be retired after the 2022-23 school year.) 5.0 oral language proficiency
2nd Semester of K-1st Semester of 1st grade WIDA Screener for Kindergarten or WIDA MODEL (all domains) (Note: WIDA MODEL will be retired after the 2022-23 school year.) WIDA Screener for Kindergarten - Overall Composite 5.0
WIDA MODEL- Overall Composite 5.0 & Composite Literacy 4.2 (reading/writing)
2nd Semester of 1st grade - 12th grade WIDA Screener (Required Screener-- online or paper) Overall Composite 5.0​


Determining the Appropriate Grade-Level Cluster for Screening Potential English Learners

The appropriate grade‐level cluster form to administer to students depends on the time of year when the test is administered and the current grade level of the student. WIDA recommends the option of administering a lower grade cluster form for students in the first semester of the first year in a grade‐level cluster. (See figure below.) For example, students in the first semester of sixth grade may take the 4–5 grade cluster form. The Grades 6–8 form should be administered to students in their second semester of sixth grade through the first semester of ninth grade.

This guidance also means that a student in the first semester of first grade should be given a kindergarten test form. Currently, the kindergarten options available in Illinois are the WIDA Screener for Kindergarten and K MODEL. The K MODEL will be retired as a prescribed screener after the 2022-23 school year. The WIDA Screener for Kindergarten will then be the only prescribed screener for kindergarten and first semester for Grade 1 moving forward.

Illinois has made this guidance based WIDA’s recommendation and on the knowledge that students just entering a new grade-level cluster have not yet been exposed to the language proficiency standards and content topics at the beginning of the school year. Students must not be administered a grade cluster test that is above the student’s current grade level. The following figure shows the appropriate grade‐level cluster test form for students, depending on the semester and grade level when the test is administered.

Grade 1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
Semester 1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
1
2
Grade-Cluster Form K
1
2-3
4-5
6-8
9-12​

Source: WIDA, Online Test Administration Manual

Preschool-Age

  • Prescribed Screening Procedures
    Prescribed screening procedures defined in IL Admin Code 228.10​PDF Document 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. Multiple vendors offer an English language screening instrument.
  • Using Scores to Determine Placement
    For prescribed screening instruments, districts should use guidance that the vendor includes in the product for purposes of placing students (Fluent English Speaker score equivalent). All potential ELs identified with the prescribed screening procedures that qualify for EL services need to be rescreened with the WIDA MODEL upon entering Kindergarten.
  • Training to Administer a Vendor’s Screening Instrument
    Online training for administering a specific vendor’s screening instrument can be found at their respective websites or literature found in the instrument’s packaging.
  • Ordering a Vendor’s Screening Instrument
    For information about ordering a commercial screening instrument consult their respective websites.  Some vendors that offer normed English language screeners for preschool aged children may be found below:

Kindergarten

  • Prescribed Screening Instrument
    For the 2022-23 school year only, the WIDA Screener for Kindergarten or the WIDA MODEL (MODEL K) 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 English learner (EL) services. The MODEL K will be retired after the 2022-23 school year, leaving the WIDA Screener for Kindergarten as the only prescribed screener. NOTE: All students identified through the Home Language Survey, including students previously screened when enrolled in preschool, must be screened using either the WIDA Screener for Kindergarten or the MODEL K prior to entering kindergarten.
  • Using Scores to Determine Placement
    Any child entering the first semester of kindergarten who is administered the WIDA Screener for Kindergarten or MODEL K and who scores below a 5.0 oral language composite (speaking/listening) proficiency level is considered an EL and is eligible for EL services. A student entering the first semester of kindergarten who achieves a 5.0 or above in the oral language composite (speaking/listening) proficiency level is considered English proficient.
  • Training for MODEL Test Administration
    The WIDA Screener for Kindergarten​ or MODEL K is to be administered by certificated instructional personnel (including bilingual teachers and English as a second language 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 training module​ for WIDA Screener for Kindergarten administration and passed the online quizzes; or
    • Completed Kindergarten Component of the ACCESS for ELLs Training for MODEL K administration, passed the online quizzes​, and meet certification requirements to administer ACCESS for ELLs.
  • Ordering WIDA Screener for Kindergarten or MODEL K
    Educators will have the option to download a free PDF version of the WIDA Screener for Kindergarten from the WIDA Secure Portal​ or purchase hard copy kits from the WIDA Store.

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 
    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 EL and is eligible for EL services. A student entering the first semester of kindergarten who achieves a 5.0 or above in the oral language composite (speaking/listening) proficiency level is considered English proficient.
  • 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

No Screener Required

Per 23 Ill. Admin. Code 228.15 , 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 within the past 12 months and the student did not meet the Illinois criteria for English language proficiency (ELP); OR
  • The student took ACCESS no sooner than the school year before the student’s enrollment in the district 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 and the screener scores place the student as meeting ELP in Illinois; OR
  • The student took ACCESS in another WIDA state 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(e)(1)(c)PDF Document  :
    • The student was identified as a potential EL with the Home Language Survey; AND
    • The student was not screened or identified as an EL in the school district the student previously attended; AND
    • The student was enrolled in a general program of instruction without EL supports in the school the student had previously attended; AND
  • The student met or exceeded standards in reading and math on the most recent state assessment (in Illinois or another state). If state assessment results are not available, then a standardized, nationally normed test may be used. Note: This criterion applies only to students who have been enrolled in Grades 3 to 11, the grades in which the state assessments are administered.

 After the Screener

Notification to Parents

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.

Refusal of Services

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.​

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