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English Language Learner (ELL)

The aim of the English Language Learner Program at Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School (BART) is to provide linguistically and culturally diverse students with instruction that will assist them in English language development and in mastering academic subject matter content. We are committed to offering a program which will meet the needs of our English Language Learners (ELLs) both academically and as lifelong citizens of the community. The following are our program goals:

  • To ensure that students whose native language is not English are provided with sufficient direct English language instruction to allow them to develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.
  • To provide learners with access to comprehensible instruction in all content areas so that they will be able to reach their full academic potential.
  • To monitor the progress of learners using formal and informal assessment tools to ensure that learners are progressing.
  • To ensure that all English Language Learners are provided with equal access to school programs and services including, but not limited to, art, music, physical education, advanced placement programs, extra-curricular activities, Special Education and Title I services and MCAS and/or PARCC preparation and support.
  • To encourage the families of our English Language Learners to participate in the education of their child.

Identification of English Language Learners

Home Language Survey

Schools have a responsibility under federal law to serve students who have limited English proficiency and need English language support in order to successfully master academic content. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, Language Minority Compliance Procedures, requires school districts/charter schools to identify limited English proficient students. BART uses the Home Language Survey (HLS) to identify limited English proficient students. The purpose of this survey is to determine if a student has a first language other than English or if a language other than English is spoken in the student’s home. The HLS is administered as part of the enrollment procedure.

Parents/guardians who enroll a child at BART are guided through the Home Language Survey process by the ELL Coordinator or by an enrollment counselor trained by the ELL Coordinator. Surveys are available in English and in all the major languages spoken in the district (Spanish and French). All students will have a completed HLS in their cumulative and ELL files. If the survey shows no language other than English upon review, the student is not a language minority student. The completed HLS is filed in the student’s cumulative file. If any responses to the questions on the HLS 3 indicate that a language or languages other than English are spoken in the home, the student is assessed with the WIDA Screener or MODEL. The completed HLS is filed in the student’s cumulative file.

Student’s Dominant Language is English

If the process shows the student’s dominant language is English, then the student is not a language minority student. The completed HLS is filed in the student’s cumulative file.

Student’s Dominant Language is a Language Other Than English

If it is revealed that the dominant home language is a language other than English on the HLS, the student is scheduled for administration of the WIDA Screener or MODEL, a screening tool used to determine if a student should be classified as an English Language Learner. The student’s home language is recorded using language codes provided by MA DESE and the HLS is filed in the student’s cumulative and ELL files.

HLS Completed in Another School/District

If an HLS was completed in another school prior to enrolling at BART, then the ELL staff should compare the responses on the two forms for consistency. If inconsistencies are found, the staff will interview parents/guardians to determine the home language and eligibility of the student for ELL services. If it is determined that the student is a language minority student, and if no W-APT or other ELL assessment was done at the previous school/district, then the student is scheduled for W-APT administration Initial Assessment. The W-APT is administered by a member of the ELL staff. This assessment measures oral language proficiency and pre-literacy skills as well as listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Results will determine the proficiency level of the student and guide the ELL coordinator in creating a plan that would best suit each learner.

Upon determination of the recommended program for the student, the parent/guardian must be notified. Testing and parental notification must be completed within:  30 calendar days (preferably sooner) for a child who enters school at the beginning of the academic school year; 2 weeks for a child who enters school after the first 30 days of the school year. The results of the assessment procedures will be included in the student’s file at school. Other relevant information about the student (progress reports, later test scores, etc.) will also be included in the student’s file as it is gathered.

Considerations for W-APT Administration

IEP Exists

If the student is identified as a language minority student and the student has an existing Individualized Education Plan (IEP), then the SPED Team, including an ELL staff member, reviews the IEP. The W-APT is administered with all testing accommodations documented in the student’s current IEP. W-APT results are reported to the SPED Team. If the student is NOT found to be eligible for ELL services, then the Special Education Team indicates this in the IEP. If the student IS identified as an ELL, the Special Education Team determines language needs as related to the IEP. An ELL staff member will collaborate with the grade level Special Education teacher to support the student.

Once identified as an ELL, the student is required by state and federal law to be annually assessed on the state mandated English language proficiency test until the student meets the exit criteria. The assessment currently used and administered annually is the ACCESS for ELLs (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners).

No IEP or Other Issues Documented

If the student is identified as a language minority, s/he is administered the W-APT. Assessment domains and scores used to identify ELL students differ according to grade. BART uses the following criteria, taken from the DESE Guidance Document (2015):

“Any student who is administered the W-APT, MODEL or the WIDA Screener and scores below an overall composite proficiency level of 5.0 and a composite literacy (reading/writing) proficiency level of 4.0 is considered to be an ELL and is eligible for ESL services. Only students who achieve a 5.0 composite proficiency level as well as 4.0 composite literacy (reading/writing) proficiency level are considered English proficient” (DESE, 2015).

Teachers should have evidence that there is a language other than English spoken in the home before referring a student for testing.

Parent/Guardian Notification

Parents/guardians must be notified in writing of the initial test results and recommended program placement within 30 calendar days of the beginning of the year or within two weeks for students who have enrolled in the school after the first 30 days of the academic school year. The notification letter will include the following information in a language that the parent/guardian can understand:

  • Notification that the child has been identified as a potential ELL
  • The results of the initial language proficiency test
  • Description of recommended program including how many hours of direct English Language Development (ELD) instruction the learner will receive. Information regarding “opting out” policy and the waiver policy. Once parents have been presented with this information, they have a few options:
  • Consent to the recommended program
  • The parent/guardian does not have to provide written consent.
  • “Opt out” of the recommended program

This means that the parent/guardian has decided that that the recommended program is not the best option for the child and they do not want the child to receive ELL support. If this happens, the parent/guardian must meet with the Learning Services Coordinator and/or ELL Coordinator before making the final decision to opt out. If the parent/guardian does decide to opt out, they must sign a form stating that they do not want their child to receive ELL support. Any questions that the parent/guardian has regarding the recommended program of instruction (SEI) must be addressed in a language the parent can understand. However, federal law has established that English language learners must be provided with English language and academic support so that they may be able to access academic content. If a parent/guardian has exercised the option of declining ELL support services, the grade level teachers and the ELL teacher should meet and coordinate SEI support for the student in the classroom. In addition, BART students who have opted out will still be reported as LEP to the state for SIMS data collection. Student progress will continue to be monitored using assessment tools including ACCESS for ELLs. Parents will continue to be kept informed of the child’s progress.

Request a Waiver

Parents/guardians also have the right to request a waiver if they feel that another educational program, namely Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE), would best suit the needs of their child. In order to apply for a waiver, the parent or guardian must visit the school and provide written consent to the application. Waivers may be granted for children 10 and older if it is the “informed belief” of teachers and school administrators that another program option would better suit the learner.

The waiver is signed by both the Executive Director and the school principal. It should be noted that if 20 or more students of a particular language group at a given grade level receive a waiver for another program option, the district is required to offer the type of program requested. In addition, parents/guardians must be notified (in writing) of their options for each subsequent academic year their child qualifies for ELL services.

Program Placement and Structure

Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) is the program model offered at BART. Students receive instruction in both English Language Development (ELD) and Sheltered Content.  The number of hours of ELD instruction for each student is informed by the student’s ACCESS for ELLs results and the Guidance on Identification, Assessment, Placement, and Reclassification of English Language Learners (August 2016). If ACCESS scores are not available for a student, an ELL teacher will administer the W-APT and use those scores to identify service hours.  All ELL students receive direct ELD in a pull out and/or push in setting (provided by an ELL teacher) as well as sheltered content in their classrooms (provided by grade level SEI teachers). ELL teachers work closely with SEI-endorsed classroom teachers to collaborate on planning and fostering similar learning goals in both settings.

ELD instruction focuses specifically on the development of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills for English language learners. Lesson plans include one of the five WIDA ELD standards (Social and Instructional language, the language of Language Arts, the language of Math, the language of Science and the language of Social Studies).

All students identified as ELL receive direct English Language Development Instruction and are placed in either a mainstream classroom or an SEI classroom.

Monitoring and Assessing ELLs

All ELL students are assessed in content areas and in ELD throughout the school year using a variety of formative and summative assessments. Students are also administered ACCESS for ELLs (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners). This is an English language proficiency assessment given to students who have been identified as English Language learners (ELLs). It is given annually to monitor students’ progress in acquiring academic English. ELL students also participate in the state mandated Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Exams (MCAS) and/or PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) as appropriate. However, if it is child’s first school year in the United States, the student does not have to participate in the English Language Arts exam. These assessments help inform instruction and ensure that ELLs are making progress. This information will also be used to inform the program plan for each ELL.

Accordingly, the number of ELD hours a student receives may be increased or decreased. Formal and informal state and school assessments also serve to identify students have achieved a level of language proficiency that will allow the student to meet grade level standards without additional support. SEI teachers work closely with the ELL teachers to ensure that ELLs are receiving an education equitable to their native-English speaking peers. Parents/guardians of English Language learners will receive progress reports throughout the year written in a language they can understand informing them of their child’s progress and performance in the English language program.

Reclassification-Exiting Students from ELL Program

Criteria

English language learners will be reclassified as Former or Reclassified ELLs once they have reached a proficiency level that will allows them to access academic content in English without any additional support. The decision to transition a student to a mainstream program is based on a number of criteria specified by the DESE Guidance Document (2015):

  • the student’s scores on locally-administered reading and other academic assessments chosen by the school such as ANET;
  • the student’s scores on locally-administered diagnostic language assessments;
  • the student’s academic grades;
  • the written observations and recommendations documented by the student’s classroom teachers;
  • the WIDA Performance Definitions which describe the criteria used to define performance at each WIDA proficiency level, and the CAN DO Descriptors 20 which provide examples of realistic expectations of ELLs for each of the four language domains and five levels of English language proficiency; and
  • the student’s performance on MCAS/PARCC content area tests.

Procedures

Either an SEI classroom teacher or an ELL teacher may initiate the reclassification or exit from an ELL program process. Parent/guardian requests for exit from the ELL program can supersede some of the above criteria, but in order to do this, parents must sign an Opt-Out form requesting that their child be withdrawn from the program. Parents or guardians considering this option must first meet with the classroom teacher and ELL Coordinator/Learning Services Director to discuss the possible educational ramifications of this decision.

The Reclassification team which includes the Learning Services Coordinator, ELL teacher(s), grade level SEI teacher(s), the School Principal, Special Education teacher (if applicable), and other members of the administrative leadership team (if applicable), will review the progress of students who are being considered for reclassification at the end of each school year, once ACCESS for ELLs results are released.

Parents will also be invited to attend their child’s reclassification meeting to offer feedback or will be informed in writing of the determination if they are not able to attend. BART will make every effort to schedule the meeting to allow for parent attendance.

Monitoring

If a student is reclassified, they will no longer receive ELD instruction from an ELL teacher. They will, however, continue to be placed in an SEI classroom so that they may be supported appropriately in the classroom. An ELL staff member will monitor the student’s progress for a period of two years after the student has been exited from the ELL program. Parents will be notified when the student’s monitoring process begins as well as when it ends after two years. If a Reclassified student is not making adequate progress, the student can be rescreened and reclassified as ELL. In the event that a Reclassified student is once again classified as ELL, the student will begin receiving ELD again. The monitoring process will include the following:

  • Two observations a year from an ELL teacher
  • Two student interviews a year, administered by an ELL teacher.
  • Analysis of student work using the Can Do descriptors for the student’s grade level cluster
  • Monitoring and communication between ELL teacher and grade level team
  • Parent Communication as needed

Rescreening Procedures

During the monitoring process, SEI teachers will fill out a monitoring form three times a year after benchmark periods. SEI teachers can indicate that they would like to have their Reclassified student rescreened for ELL services if they believe that the child’s lack of progress is due to limited English proficiency. In the event that an SEI teacher indicates that they would like a student rescreened, the teacher will fill out a Referral for Rescreening Form. This will provide ELL teachers with important information and samples to aid in the rescreening process. An ELL staff member will administer the W-APT to the student. Criteria for rescreening is similar to the reclassification criteria. If a student is not making adequate progress, the student will be reclassified as ELL and will receive ELL support services.

For more information, contact Erin Hattaway, Assistant Principle and ELL Coordinator at erin.hattaway@bartcharter.org or 413-743-7311 x 712