College of Education & Human Services

Lesson 2: Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: How do you know if a student enrolling in your district is Limited English Proficient (LEP) also called an English Language Learner (ELL) faq and is eligible for language support services?

Answer: (From ISBE website re-published on 11/22/06 from the October 16, 2006 Superintendent’s Bulletin)

Follow these steps:

• Administer a Home Language Survey to ALL students (in Pre-K through 12th grades) newly registering in your district. (Sample Home Language Surveys are available in English and twenty nine others languages at:

• Assess 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?”

• Use the W-APT (WIDA ACCESS Placement Test) to assess their English proficiency.

• Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st Semester 1st Grade students, take the Kindergarten WAPT. Raw scores are used to determine English language “proficiency.” To determine whether a Pre-K or Kindergarten student is LEP, see our flowchart for guidance.

• Students in grades 1-12 take the appropriate Grade Cluster W-APT Screener. To determine whether a student in grades 1-12 is LEP, see our flowchart for guidance.

• Students who score below a composite 4.0 on the W-APT screener are considered Limited English Proficient (LEP) and are eligible for language support services.

• Students who achieve a MINIMUM composite score of 4.0 or above on the W-APT are considered “English language proficient.”

SPECIAL NOTE: The district has the discretion of using additional indicators, e.g., 4.0 or higher in each domain, other tests, etc., to determine whether the student is LEP based upon the district’s established criteria.


Question 2: What do you do after you have screened for English Language Proficiency and have  determined the faqstudent IS an English Language Learner (ELL) and is eligible for language support  services?

Answer: If a student is determined to be limited English proficient (LEP), the district:

Enters all pertinent data regarding the student into the state’s Student Information System (SIS). A description of all of the elements related to ELLs can be found at the following link:

Informs parents in writing of the results of the assessment and the program placement recommendations, describing the services that are available to assist the student become English language proficient. Sample parent notification letters are available in English and twenty-nine other languages at:
NOTE: 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.

Continues to annually assess all identified LEP students using the ACCESS for ELLs™ assessment until the student tests as English language proficient. Students who obtain a composite score of 4.0 (Tier A, B or C) or above on the annually administered state approved English Language Proficiency test, ACCESS for ELLs™, are to be considered English “Proficient.”

• However, remember the district still has the discretion of using additional indicators, to determine whether the student is English Language Proficient, based upon the district’s established criteria.

• Annually reports its number of identified LEP students on the Fall Housing Report, including identified LEP students whose parents have refused services, to the Data Analysis and Progress Reporting Division. Districts seeking assistance in completing this portion of the Fall Housing Report should contact Jim Sweeney at 217-782-3950.

• Provides services as required for the individual student’s needs and as determined by the types of programs provided by the district.

Districts with additional questions regarding the determination of English language proficiency are encouraged to call the Division of English Language Learning at 312-814-3850.

Question 3: What if the student already has an English proficiency score from another school district or faqstate?

Answer: (Source: Section 228.15, e), 1) - Amended at 30 Ill. Reg. 17434, effective October 23, 2006)

1) A district may rely upon a student’s score attained on the prescribed screening instrument or on the assessment instrument prescribed under Section 228.25(c) of this Part, if either is available from another school district or another state, provided that the score was achieved no more than 12 months prior to the district’s need to assess the student’s proficiency in English for purposes of eligibility and placement.

Question 4: What is the ACCESS for ELLs™?

faqAnswer: ACCESS for ELLs™ is a standards-based, criterion referenced English language proficiency test designed to measure English language learners’ social and academic proficiency in English. It assesses social and instructional English as well as the language associated with language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies within the school context across the four language domains.

Question 5: Why is an English Language Proficiency test required?

faqAnswer: An English Language Proficiency test is required under No Child Left Behind legislation. Passed in 2001, NCLB indicates that all K-12 English language learners must be assessed annually for English proficiency growth (Title III) and academic progress (Title I). School districts receiving Title III grant resources will be held accountable under the Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) provision of NCLB. Last, the Illinois Administrative Code, Part 228, Section 228.15(f) indicates districts shall administer an individual language proficiency assessment to each student identified through the home language survey. Preschools receiving state funding are required in the state of Illinois to also administer an English Language Proficiency test. This assessment shall take place within four weeks (30 days) of the student's enrollment in the district, for the purpose of determining the student's eligibility for bilingual education services.

Question 6: When do students take ACCESS for ELLs™?

faqAnswer: Typically, schools order the ACCES tests in October and begin test administration in January for all domains of the test. For dates for the current academic year, please see the website listed below. Individually administered tests (kindergarten and speaking) can be given anytime during the testing window.

NOTE: For current dates go to:

Question 7: Must all schools give the ACCESS for ELLs™?

faqAnswer: All Illinois public schools, including Charter schools, are required to identify and assess Limited English Proficient students (LEPs).

The WIDA ACCESS Placement Test (W-APT) is downloadable and free to all Illinois public schools. The secure full-scale ACCESS for ELLs™ assessment will be distributed at no cost to these schools.

Question 8: Who can administer the ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT?

faq Answer: ACCESS for ELLs™ the secure state approved annual assessment for English language proficiency, and the W-APT Screener, the state approved initial screener for English language proficiency, are 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 ACCESS for ELLs™ training, passed the on-line quizzes and meet certification requirements to administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT Screener.

Additional flexibility may be granted to school districts whose unusual circumstances warrant the need to secure additional staff to support their efforts to assess English language learners. In such cases they may contract certificated personnel who have been trained and certified to administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and W-APT Screener.

Substitutes that meet ALL of the criteria listed below may administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT Screener.

1. The individual has been hired by the district on a long-term substitute basis to fill in for a teacher who is out on extended leave due to illness, maternity leave, or any such leave officially approved by the employing district, and

2. The individual's assigned duties must include all duties customarily performed by the regular teacher such as lesson planning, other state mandated test administration and report card generation, and

3. The individual must hold a full certificate for the grade level, meet state assignment requirements and comply with the NCLB highly qualified requirements, and

4. The individual must receive ACCESS for ELLs™ training, complete and pass the on-line quizzes and meet certification requirements to administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT Screener.

Who cannot administer ACCESS for ELLS™ and the W-APT Screener?

Certificated individuals who have not been trained and certified to administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT Screener cannot administer these assessments.

Type 39 substitute teachers cannot administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT Screener.

Paraprofessionals are not allowed to administer ACCESS for ELLs™ and the W-APT Screener even if they hold a teaching certificate or previously held a valid one.


Question 9: Do ELLs have to take the ISAT and PSAE?

faqAnswer: YES. ELLs are required to take TWO state assessments annually. The ACCESS for ELLs™ measures growth in social and academic English, while the ISAT and PSAE measure achievement of the Illinois Learning Standards. ELLs are eligible for accommodations and special forms of the ISAT and PSAE.

See the following link for a summary of the assessment implementation schedule: