‘What is ELL?’

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 10, 2008 1 min read

The Grand Forks Herald of Grand Forks, N.D., has published a definition for an English-language learner in that part of the country. The piece, “What is ELL?,” accompanies an article published yesterday about how public schools in Grand Forks, N.D., have recently experienced a dramatic increase in enrollment of such students.

The newspaper’s definition for “English-language learner” includes some technical information about ELL programs, such as that “students can be taken out of the program when they reach [level] 4.5, according to state law, but staff members at schools can decide to continue the ELL education.” ELL programs in Grand Forks have six levels.

The explanation has some missing information, such as the fact that schools must give an English-language-proficiency test to any students whose parents say they speak a language other than English at home. North Dakota, by the way, is one of 19 members of the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, or WIDA, which provides both an initial screening test for English proficiency and a test that is used to measure students’ annual progress in learning English. Those tests each have 6 levels of English proficiency.

It’s typical of WIDA states to set some kind of guideline for when English-language learners are no longer in need of special services to learn the language.

How is an English-language learner defined in your part of the country, and is it a definition that you think makes sense?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.


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