If we want to check on a currently identified EL’s proficiency level during the school year, can we use the screener?2023-04-24T12:03:30-04:00

The screener is not designed for this purpose. You should either use the WIDA MODEL, which must be purchased from WIDA, or use a locally developed assessment. Keep in mind that formative information that ESL teachers can gather during ongoing interaction with students is very valuable when considering a student’s current ability and level of need. The WIDA proficiency level descriptors, rubrics, and ELD standards can be used to help in this type of analysis.

Are ELs in Pennsylvania allowed to remain in school until 21, or is this only for special education?2023-04-24T12:02:56-04:00

ELs are entitled to remain enrolled in school through the end of the year in which they turn 21. Please review the Enrollment of Students BEC for more information.

Do we use the term English learner (EL) or another term?2023-04-24T12:02:29-04:00

PDE uses the term English learner in line with the federal government. However, the term multilingual learner (MLL/ML) is increasingly used in research and professional learning activities. Either term is acceptable in formal communication.

What happened to the Growth-to-Target reports that we used to receive from PDE each year?2023-04-24T12:02:04-04:00

PDE discontinued these reports. They will be replaced by reports that can be run locally. PDE will notify the field when these reports are made available.

A student recently enrolled and the HLS indicated English for all questions. However, we discovered that the student speaks a form of Liberian English, which is not the same as American English. Can we screen this student for EL programming?2023-04-24T12:01:43-04:00

PDE allows districts a little latitude here. They should first determine which form of Liberian English (or English from another country) a child or family speaks through our family interview process. Some forms are quite distinct from American English (Kru Pidgin, Kreyol, etc.). That being the case, we do allow screening for students whose HLS indicates English for all questions but who speak one of the forms of English that are different enough from standard American English that the student might require language supports. After all, if the form of English a student speaks could put them at an academic disadvantage, and it is tied to their national origin, then it is a Title VI issue.

How are ESL specialists are allotted to each school? Is it based on the numbers of each level of ELs or some other formula?2023-04-24T12:01:21-04:00

The state does not prescribe teacher ratios or ways to implement LIEPs. Like the federal government, PDE uses the Castaneda test to ensure program compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. LEAs have the flexibility to design their programs in whatever way makes the most sense for them given their local populations and needs. Each program must be resourced appropriately in order to ensure effectiveness, though. There are certainly no formulas that dictate how to calculate the number of ESL teachers required, since there are many ways to design and implement an LIEP.

If you do not have a sufficient number of ESL teachers to effectively implement your stated program, and the ELs are not making adequate progress in learning English and/or achieving academic success, then the district is obligated to make changes to its program to increase the effectiveness of it. This may include additional ESL teachers.

Can ESL teachers be required to cover special education classes?2023-04-24T12:00:50-04:00

ESL teachers can be pulled to cover courses if that practice is used in your district and other teachers are subject to these requirements as needed and in accordance with your local collective bargaining agreement/contract. If pulling ESL teachers to cover other classes will have a negative impact on the implementation of the LIEP, then it must be discontinued.

Can a student’s one-to-one be in the room during an ACCESS test?2023-04-24T12:00:31-04:00

Yes, but will have to complete non-disclosure if they are exposed to test materials.

Can the host family for a foreign exchange student complete the HLS and family interview, or do we need to send it to the student’s family abroad?2023-04-24T12:00:08-04:00

The host family, with input from the student, can complete the HLS and the family interview. There is no need to send the documents to the student’s family abroad.

Are we required to screen foreign exchange students? What if a foreign exchange student comes to us with scores from an English test other than the WIDA Screener?2023-04-24T11:59:49-04:00

Foreign exchange students must be subject to the same process that you use for other students when determining EL status. If the student comes from an environment where another language is used that is also tied to their national origin, which will likely be the case for most foreign exchange students, then you must follow the steps in the identification procedure to determine if they are an EL. This may include screening with the WIDA Screener. You may not use scores from another assessment for this purpose.

Can you use a teachers aid to teach ESL if the ESL teacher created the lessons?2023-04-24T11:59:29-04:00

No. ELD must be delivered by a trained and certified ESL teacher.

Can ELs be pulled from electives to take ELD direct instruction?2023-04-24T11:59:06-04:00

To the greatest extent possible, districts should work with students to ensure that they are not being restricted from taking courses that they wish to take. When there is a conflict, the district should work to accommodate the student’s wishes when possible. One approach might be to consider rotating the pullout time by semester so the student can take an elective for part of the year or consider changing the time of the pullout for part of the year.

Another approach might be to consider a different format for ELD. Can ELD be incorporated into other instruction (push-in or co-teaching)? Note that ELD cannot be scheduled in place of any core content course (math, science, social studies, ELA).

Related to PSSA, if students have the Spanish booklet for math, they are permitted to write in either English or Spanish. The LEA is not responsible for translating Spanish answers to English, is that correct?2023-04-24T11:58:39-04:00


What is the cutoff for the federal exemption from the PSSA ELA test?2023-04-24T11:58:20-04:00

This exemption is allowable only once for students who have been enrolled in US school for fewer than 12 months. The time starts on the last day of the testing window for the PSSA ELA or Literacy Keystone Exam from the previous year. If a student enrolled in US schools for the first time after the last day of PSSA ELA or Keystone Literature testing the previous year, then he/she is eligible to be exempted from the test.  This is covered in the PSSA/Keystone testing accommodations manual.

From the manual:

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed into law on December 10, 2015, allows flexibility for EL students whose enrollment in a school in one of the 50 States in the United States or the District of Columbia fewer than 12 cumulative months (not consecutive) an option of taking the ELA PSSA or Literature Keystone exam. A student’s enrollment in a school in Puerto Rico is not to be considered as enrollment in a U.S. school. It is incumbent upon the LEA to determine a student’s status. The eligible student will have been enrolled in a US school less than or equal to 12 cumulative months by the end of the current school year PSSA ELA/Keystone Literature testing window.

What is the protocol for assessing students for retention? Can ESL students be retained?2023-04-24T11:57:53-04:00

Yes, ELs can be retained in a grade as long as you rule out English proficiency as the main or sole reason for the retention. If adequate supports were not provided, or you are uncertain about whether or not language proficiency is the root cause for the lack of academic progress, then you should reconsider retention and focus on the effectiveness of efforts to make content comprehensible for the student. See the EL BEC for this requirement.

We are observing that our older and higher proficiency level ELs are making smaller gains from year to year than our younger students and those at lower proficiency levels. Is that normal?2023-04-24T11:57:32-04:00

Yes, data shows that younger students tend to make larger gains than older students and students at lower proficiency levels tend to make larger gains than those at higher proficiency levels.

When should we start the reclassification process?2023-04-24T11:57:05-04:00

Schools should start to plan for reclassification in March once testing is complete. First, ELs must be selected who are likely to reach the minimum threshold of 4.5 overall composite proficiency level on ACCESS. Next, teachers should be assigned to complete rubrics for each of the selected students. Teachers should be trained in the use of the rubrics. You can access the training materials on the ELD Portal.

Teachers should begin evaluating their students for language use around the end of April or the beginning of May at the latest. The rubrics should be completed based on a holistic review of student work and multiple evaluations of student language use over an extended period during the normal course of instruction and prior to the release of ACCESS scores at the end of May.

When a student moves from an elementary school to a middle school, to which school are the accountability calculations attributed?2023-04-24T11:56:37-04:00

Accountability calculations are attributed to the school in which the student is enrolled at the time of the most recent testing.

How many ELs does my school need to have an accountability calculation for the EL growth and attainment section of the Future Ready PA Index?2023-04-24T11:56:19-04:00

A school must have a minimum of 20 ELs to have an EL calculation in the Future Ready PA Index.

What if we have an EL with a disability who missed one year of testing. Does the three-year period for reclassification start over? In other words, do all three years of ACCESS scores have to be consecutive for the reclassification criteria for ELs with disabilities?2023-04-24T11:55:59-04:00

Yes, the three ACCESS test scores leading to reclassification for ELs with disabilities must be consecutive. If a student misses a year, then the timeline starts over.

What is considered a long-term EL?2023-04-24T11:55:37-04:00

The federal definition of a long-term EL is an EL who has not attained proficiency within five years of enrollment in an LIEP. In Pennsylvania, students are allowed up to six years to attain proficiency under the state accountability calculations.

Can students be provided with the Spanish and English PSSA assessments if they do not have Spanish listed as a home language? The students’ home language is Mayan, but they are proficient in Spanish.2023-04-24T11:55:11-04:00

That is allowable at the district’s discretion. There’s no need to update the HLS or the reported languages.

I am seeking Pennsylvania Department of Education’s recommended word-to-word translation glossaries for the Biology Keystone and Science PSSA (4th and 8th). I see a list of distributors on the state’s Accommodation for ELs document, however, I do not see any specific resources recommended.2023-04-24T11:54:34-04:00

We do not make recommendations for any specific word to word translation dictionaries. Keep in mind they must follow the guidelines set in the referenced Accommodations Manuel, be approved by your SAC, and most importantly should be resources that students are familiar with using and are accommodations the students have used prior to the assessment. They may not be introduced for the first time on the date of the state assessments.

How do I access my DRC and WIDA logins?2023-04-24T11:54:08-04:00

If you are a district coordinator, then you just need to contact the DRC helpdesk for access to the WIDA AMS and they will create a coordinator account for you. You can then create accounts for your teachers if need be.

If you are a teacher, contact your district coordinator.

For access to the WIDA Secure Site where test administrator training is housed, contact WIDA to create the account for you if you are a coordinator.

Again, once that’s done, you can create accounts for your teachers, and they can complete the ACCESS test administrator training.

If you are a teacher, contact your district coordinator.

When will PDE release the ACCESS testing dates for next year?2023-04-24T11:52:20-04:00

PDE coordinates with DRC to finalize testing dates in mid-July and publishes them shortly afterward. In most years, the dates are finalized and published by the first week of August.

What is the deadline for ACCESS testing completion?2023-04-24T11:51:59-04:00

You can find all important ACCESS testing dates on WIDA’s Pennsylvania webpage.

If we anticipate that a student will score above 4.5 overall composite proficiency level on the ACCESS score, and we initiate the completion of rubrics before the test scores are released, but then the student scores below 4.5, what happens?2023-04-24T11:51:40-04:00

You must decide which students are likely to reach a 4.5 on the ACCESS overall composite and have teachers complete rubrics before the scores are released at the end of May. Some students may not score a 4.5. In those cases, they are simply not eligible, and the rubrics should just be filed. Some students for whom rubrics were not completed prior to the score release may unexpectedly score above 4.5. In those cases, you may complete the rubrics after the scores are released.

This is covered in the policy document and in the reclassification training page on the ELD Portal.

Can a parent opt their student out of taking the WIDA ACCESS test?2023-04-24T11:51:17-04:00

Parents may not opt out of the annual ELP assessment. It is required by federal law.

We ordered WIDA materials for two of our students who subsequently moved to a different state. We will keep their booklets until the end of the test window. Is there anything else we need to do in the DRC/WIDA Systems?2023-04-24T11:50:52-04:00

Just return the books at the end of the testing window. If they moved, then they are no longer enrolled and will not be captured in the winter snapshot PDE uses for accountability.

What are the WIDA testing expectations for homebound students?2023-04-24T11:50:24-04:00

Students who are homebound are required to participate in the annual ELP testing. If the student cannot participate in the school, then a trained and qualified staff member should administer the test at the student’s home with the appropriate security protocols if possible.

How do I request an extension for ACCESS testing?2023-04-24T11:50:05-04:00

Please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Education close to the end of the window to request an extension if you need one. Very limited extensions may be granted, but there is no guarantee. It is dependent on the state testing timelines negotiated with DRC. As a reminder, districts are expected to start testing as soon as possible when the testing window opens to leave room for unforeseeable delays or disruptions later in the window.

A school in our district is closing. The EL specialist at the closing school is wondering if they should test their current EL students before they transition to their new school. Should they administer as many as possible and have the remaining students take the tests at the receiving district?2023-04-24T11:49:43-04:00

If she can, it is recommended. The odds that students who move during the testing window will not be tested in their new districts is high, and that is problematic for them. Tests can be transferred from one district to another through DRC if the receiving school contacts DRC.

If a student requires an exemption to the speaking domain on the 1st grade ACCESS test due to a speech disability, what is the recommended protocol?2023-04-24T14:42:35-04:00

This is covered on page 23 of the district Test Coordinator Manual. You can find the Coordinator Manual in the WIDA Secure Portal under the “Resources” tab. You will code the domain with a do not score code of SPD.

If a student declined to take, is unable to take, or cannot be present to take the ACCESS test, what is the recommended protocol?2023-04-24T14:41:31-04:00

Mark the test, or necessary sections of the test, with the appropriate “do not score” code, as per the Test Coordinator Manual in the WIDA Secure Portal under the “Resources” tab.

Is there a requirement to cover and hide academic content (e.g., posters, etc.) when testing in the classroom (like requirements for other state tests, such as the PSSA)?2023-04-24T14:40:53-04:00

Since ACCESS does not assess content, it is not necessary to cover or remove anything that would provide an advantage purely for content (e.g. a periodic table or math formulas). However, as stated on page 37 of the Test Coordinator Manual (in the WIDA Secure Portal under “resources”), you should remove any posters that could assist students with language (e.g. grammar posters, color charts, classroom labels, etc.).

Can I reclassify a student who took a Tier A test?2023-04-24T11:47:50-04:00

Test tiers do not matter for reclassification. If the student attains a 4.5 overall composite proficiency level, then they are eligible for reclassification, regardless of the tier.

If a parent opted a student out of ELD programming, is the student exempt from ACCESS testing?2023-04-24T11:46:41-04:00

Students whose parents have refused specialized separate services are still ELs, which means that they are required to participate in the annual ELP testing in accordance with federal law, and districts are still required to provide all the necessary supports to overcome language barriers in order to make the academic program accessible and meaningful for them.

Last year, I conducted a parent interview for a student utilizing the English Learner Identification sheet, and it was determined that there was insufficient cause to proceed with the screening. Now, though, she is struggling academically, and appears to have difficulty understanding the teacher. My question is: are we permitted to screen her now, given these circumstances?2023-04-24T11:46:20-04:00

Yes, you should screen the student if you have reasonable evidence that she is struggling as a result of language needs that were missed during the initial identification process.

What are best practices for rescreening students who may have initially passed a screening?2023-04-24T11:45:54-04:00

You may re-screen at your discretion if you have compelling evidence that the results of the screener were inaccurate based on sufficient classroom observations, academic performance, and interaction with the student to justify it. Generally speaking, it is not a good practice to re-screen within a month or two of the initial screening. However, as stated previously, if you have compelling evidence that the student may need language supports, you may re-screen to either refute or verify the initial result during a single school year.

What are the responsibilities of a Career and Technical Education program in serving EL students?2023-04-24T11:45:31-04:00

A comprehensive CTC/AVTS must provide the full curriculum, which will include ELD in some form. A non-comprehensive or occupational CTC/AVTS is only responsible for providing the specialized content courses in whatever area they serve. However, all schools serving ELs are required to make content comprehensible for ELs. So regardless of whether it is a comprehensive or occupational CTC/AVTS, the school is responsible for taking all steps to overcome language barriers in order to make the instruction meaningful for ELs. It is not the responsibility of the sending LEA to provide support to make content comprehensible in a CTC/AVTS.

We have been told that we are not allowed to provide resources in Spanish to our Spanish speaking students because it would be unfair for students who speak other languages. Is this accurate?2023-04-24T11:45:02-04:00

You cannot deny students something that would be academically appropriate and beneficial for them in the name of equality. If you have resources in Spanish, then provide them to students who could benefit from them. Of course, the district should strive to provide native language resources to as many of their students as possible, but it is inappropriate to deny any students these resources until you can provide them to all students.

Our high school does not award credit for ELD courses taken more than once because it is the same content. Is this allowable?2023-04-24T11:44:39-04:00

This is problematic because it is discriminatory. ELs must be given credit for all courses taken. An EL may take an ELD course year after year, but the content of the course should not be the same. ELD content is based on student needs and should move them along the language acquisition continuum. Therefore, it will not be the same from one year to the next. ESL teachers should not be teaching scripted curriculum, which is the only plausible scenario in which ELD content is being repeated. If courses need to be named differently (ELD9, ELD10, ELD11, etc.) due to scheduling or recording/reporting requirements, then the district can name them in whatever way makes sense internally, but credit must be awarded for each instance that an EL completes the course.

Are there suggestions for best practice in designing an LIEP?2023-04-24T11:43:52-04:00

LIEPs can be designed in many ways depending on local needs. PDE does not prescribe program design methodology or approaches to implementation. Also, “best practice” is situational. The best approach in one district may be less than optimal in another, even with seemingly similar demographics. PDE has produced a document that districts can use to help evaluate the comprehensiveness of their approach to program design, though. You can find this document on the LIEP page of the PDE EL website.

How do EL coordinators receive email updates from the Pennsylvania Department of Education?2023-04-24T11:43:29-04:00

PDE collects district EL Coordinator contact information in PIMS, and only districts can update that information. If you are a new Coordinator, you need to contact your district’s PIMS Coordinator to update the EL Coordinator contact information. Do not request that PDE update this information. All field updates as archived on the ELD Portal after being sent out.

If a school receives a letter from the Department of Homeland Security that says a student is receiving their U.S. citizenship, do we remove the immigrant status on their enrollment page in infinite campus? And do we need to do anything else?2023-04-24T11:43:07-04:00

Immigrant status is a code used for federal Immigrant Grant funding under Title III and is unrelated to immigration status. Students are considered immigrants for funding purposes during their first three years in US Schools. There is no action to take as a result of immigration status changes like the one described.

When an ELD teacher is on leave, does a school have to have a substitute that is certified (or emergency certified) in ELD to cover the EL classes? Or, can an appointed substitute provide the instruction, as long as they are in consultation with and working under another certified ELD teacher?2023-04-24T11:42:27-04:00

A substitute is acceptable as long as the district can ensure that the program is effective for the student and that the substitute is working closely with an ESL specialist. It’s very similar to a substitute who is teaching science without a science certification. They would be implementing instruction designed by a science teacher and in consultation with those who are certified.

If the ELD teachers’ leave is long-term, it will require extra care and attention from administrators and the ELD team to ensure that students’ language needs are being met and that the instruction is effective. PDE recommends a formal process for formative assessment and monitoring that schools can create locally based on what makes sense for teachers.

Does the Pennsylvania Department of Education have a recommended number of minutes or hours EL students should receive instruction by EL teachers based on their WIDA scores?2023-04-24T11:42:04-04:00

There are no state recommendations for particular instructional approaches or ways to implement them. The state does not prescribe hours or minutes of ELD direct instruction or support. Program design is a local decision. It must be designed based on a sound theory and implemented appropriately to meet the needs of your ELs. There are many ways to do that, and the state and federal government do not generally get involved in that process unless there is a complaint or the district requests technical assistance.

Example: Two students who score an overall composite of 2.0 on ACCESS may require very different kinds of support or instruction, so hard rules based on ACCESS scores are not usually the best approach for program placement and in some cases may even be problematic in terms of compliance with state and federal rules and policies.

Do parents need to sign the parent opt-out form for the ELD Program every year?2023-04-24T11:41:21-04:00

The parent only completes the form once at the time of enrollment. If they choose not to opt out, there is no need to follow up. If they choose to opt-out (refuse specialized services), then districts should reach out at least annually to remind them of the benefits of the program and give them the opportunity to accept the recommended LIEP components that they initially refused. In either case, there is no need for a parent to complete the form more than once unless they change their mind.

What forms and information should be updated in EL students’ permanent record annually?2023-04-24T11:41:00-04:00

This is largely a local decision. However, at a minimum, districts must maintain:

  • all ELP testing and screening records,
  • all information collected at the time of enrollment related to the identification process,
  • the annual notification of participation in the LIEP,
  • and any program changes.

If parents have refused services, records indicating this decision should be maintained and any annual communication to recommend placement in the LIEP should be documented.

How do I calculate student language growth on ACCESS?2023-04-24T11:40:39-04:00

Please see the tutorial, Calculating Individual English Learner Student Targets and Analyzing Student Growth on the CSC Learning Portal for a detailed explanation of how to measure growth and set targets for ELs based on ACCESS and other data.

Is there a Danielson Framework specifically for EL specialists (particularly those who do not teach in a full classroom setting)?2023-04-24T11:40:12-04:00

No, there is not.

If an ELD specialist provides full day direct instruction, even if it is not in a full classroom setting, that teacher will use the Framework for Observation & Practice- Classroom Teacher.

If an ELD specialist does not provide direct instruction (enrollment, scheduling, liaison, etc), that teacher will use the Framework for Observation & Practice- NTP other.

If an ELD specialist splits their day between direct instruction and non-teaching duties, then it is a local administrative decision as to which framework will be used. Please refer to Educator Effectiveness.

Do you have to be certified in English 9-12 to give a grade for an ESL/ELD class or can you be certified in any area (example Family Consumer Science) 9-12 to give a grade for an ESL class? Of course, this means you were also certified in ESL grades K-12.2023-04-24T11:39:45-04:00

If you have an ESL Specialist Certificate, you can teach an ELD course in whatever grade band in which you have a content certification and award a credit for the ELD course (usually an elective credit). The particular subject of your content certification area does not matter. So, for example, if you have a secondary social studies certification and an ESL Specialist Certificate, then you can teach an ELD course in grades 9-12 and award an elective credit for it. If you have an elementary certification and the ESL Certificate, then you can teach ELD in elementary school. You cannot award a credit for an ELD course that is outside of the grade band of your content area certification. For example, you cannot award a credit for ELD, even if you have the ESL Certificate, in secondary if you do not possess a secondary instructional certification (e.g., if you have an elementary teaching certification only). You may provide non-credit bearing support outside of your instructional grade band, but, again, you may not be the teacher of record.

We need a document from the translation library in a language that isn’t listed there. Can I request an additional language?2023-04-24T11:39:23-04:00

We can only add languages by the order of prevalence in the state when the budget allows. PDE cannot accommodate requests for additional languages.

Do districts need to provide services to ELs in non-public schools in the district boundaries if those students live outside of the district boundaries?2023-04-24T11:38:57-04:00

Districts receiving Title III should work with non-public schools in their geographic boundaries if those schools have decided to participate in Title III. It doesn’t matter where the ELs in the non-public school live. Even if they live in another district, if they attend school in the non-public within your district boundaries, then they should be included in the non-public count for your Title III grant and they are eligible for whatever services are provided by the public LEA.

Are districts required to provide EL services to non-public school students?2023-04-24T11:38:29-04:00

Public school districts only work with non-public schools if they are participating in Title III. In those cases, the public school needs to work out exactly what kind of services, if any, they will provide to ELs in the non-pub. That’s all part of the consultation that should take place at the beginning of the year. There is guidance about this on the Title III page of the PDE EL website.

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