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Supports for English Learners (ELs)

A young student doing schoolwork

DCPS serves more than 8,000 students who are English Learners (ELs). Our EL students come from 136 different countries and speak over 139 different languages and dialects. Nearly 75% of our EL population comes from a background where Spanish is spoken at home. Spanish, Amharic, French, Chinese, and Vietnamese are the most spoken languages of our EL students. DCPS offers several programs for EL students which are described in more detail below.

The Language Acquisition Division (LAD) promotes the development of students’ proficiency in English listening, speaking, reading, and writing as they engage in continued study of academic content including language arts, math, science, and social studies.

Who is an English Learner?

An English Learner, or EL, is a student whose home language is not English and needs support learning English so they can access their grade level content. EL students receive language support services that help them develop their English language proficiency while developing content knowledge to be academically successful.

An EL student is defined as a linguistically and culturally diverse (LCD) student who has an overall English Language Proficiency (ELP) Level of 1-4.5 on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 test administered each year. This test measures students’ knowledge of English and shows whether students need support programs and services. If the test shows that a student needs support learning English, the student will be identified as an EL student.

Students who reach an ELP Level 4.5 or above are considered English Proficient (EP) students and are no longer identified as EL students.  After reaching an ELP level of 4.5, students will have their academic progress monitored for 4 years.  Families who feel their child would benefit from continued ESL services may request a return to services through the school ESL team.

How is an English Learner identified?

All parents and guardians of newly enrolled students must answer the questions in the Home Language Identification Survey section of the DCPS enrollment form to let school staff know which language(s) the student and family speak at home.

If the response to any of the questions is a language other than English, the school will then refer the family and student to the Welcome Center where the student will be assessed for English Level Proficiency to determine eligibility to receive English support services (ESL) at school.

What assessments are used to determine eligibility for ESL services?

DCPS uses WIDA’s English language screener proficiency test to assess the four domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. For students in grades Pk3-Kindergarten, listening and speaking are assessed through the Pre-IPT and K-WAPT screeners. The WIDA Screeners are used for students in grades 1-12. Please refer to the table below for further details.

Students who score NES or LES in the IPT, Low-High in the K-WAPT, or Level 1 to Level 4.5 on the WIDA screener tests are eligible for ESL services. Beginning in Kindergarten, these students participate in the annual language proficiency test, called ACCESS for ELLs 2.0, each spring until they score an ELP level 4.5 or above, which indicates the student is English Proficient and should exit the program.

When students take the initial English Level Proficiency screener test and are deemed eligible for ESL services, parents/guardians can choose to have their children opt out of these programs by submitting a written letter to their school. Please note that even if the parent/guardian chooses to opt out of receiving ESL services, all EL students are still required to participate in the annual ELP ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment until they score an ELP level 4.5 or above.

Parents and guardians of children who qualify for ESL services have the legal right to be informed, in a language they can understand, about the available programs and services.

Grade Level

Test Administered


Eligible for ESL Services

Pk3 & Pk4



NES- Non-English Speaker

LES-Limited-English Speaker

FES- Fluent-English Speaker













WIDA Screener

*1st grade students are tested with K-WAPT in the 1st half of the year

Levels 1-6

Levels 1-4.5


What types of English Learner programs are available?

Content-Based English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs: The academic content areas of English Language Arts, social studies, science, and mathematics are used as a vehicle for language learning to ensure that students master academic content and performance standards. Instruction is primarily in English, although native language support is provided when necessary and when possible. These classes are taught by ESL-certified teachers using a pull-out, push-in, or inclusion approach.

Itinerant-ESL Services Model:  A set of federally mandated services provided to English Learners (ELs) enrolled at schools that do not have school-based ESL staff.  While student enrollment is an ever-changing data point that LAD will continue to monitor throughout the year, there are over 40 DCPS schools with fewer than 10 ELs enrolled, currently scheduled to receive itinerant ESL services.  Regardless of EL enrollment, DCPS is committed to providing robust services and supports to all students.  The assigned itinerant ESL teacher will work with school staff to create a schedule that take the students’ grade level, English language proficiency (ELP) level and re-opening schedules into consideration.  The Itinerant ESL Services model works to ensure that language supports, family communication, and compliance pieces are all managed effectively. 

Dual Language Education Programs: Students in this instructional program develop literacy skills in their native language while simultaneously learning a second language. Instruction occurs in both languages supported by the program. The following schools have Dual Language Programs in Spanish/English: Bancroft ES, Bruce-Monroe ES, Cleveland ES, Columbia Heights EC, Houston ES, MacFarland MS, Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, Powell ES, Marie Reed ES, Roosevelt HS, and Tyler ES. For more information, visit  

Secondary Newcomer Literacy Program: This program supports those immigrant students who come to DCPS with a limited or interrupted formal education background and prepares them to become successful both in school and in the post-secondary world. Classes provide students with language development and focus on core academic and literacy skills as well as foundational math to address gaps in their prior education. Instruction may also include native language literacy. In addition, the program offers orientation on adapting to the life, culture, and educational system in the United States, as well as tutoring, parent workshops, and links to community resources in order to ease the transition. Newcomer supports will be provided through the schools.  Specific supports are available at Cardozo EC, Columbia Heights EC, Coolidge SHS, Eastern SHS, Roosevelt SHS, and Wilson SHS.

International Academy Program: This is an International Academy following the Internationals Network for Public Schools research-based model in which recent immigrant students are engaged in rigorous, collaborative, content-based study in which students are enrolled in their core content classes from day one. The language of each content area is supported using a variety of strategies. Students are grouped heterogeneously, but travel through their courses as a team. Through the integration of the content and language development in all class, students experience elevated language and content growth. This program is currently available in Cardozo EC, Roosevelt HS, and Coolidge HS (hybrid model).

Sheltered Content: The goal of Sheltered Content programs is for EL students to develop English proficiency, content knowledge, and academic language skills such that they can enjoy success in mainstream classes without ESL services. Sheltered classes are taught by either a dually certified teacher who holds licenses both in ESL and in the content being taught, or a content-certified teacher who has had professional development in ESL instruction.

What is the annual EL assessment (ACCESS for ELLs 2.0)?

The Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State to State (ACCESS for ELLs 2.0) is an online secure large-scale English language proficiency assessment administered to kindergarten through 12th grade students who have been identified as English learners (ELs). It is given annually in WIDA Consortium member states to monitor students' progress in acquiring academic English. ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 is only available to Consortium member states.  ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 is aligned with the WIDA English Language Development Standards and assesses each of the four language domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing and across the following content areas: social and instructional English, language arts, math, science, and social studies.

The test places students in English language proficiency (ELP) levels 1 to 4.5.

See the chart below for an explanation of the five scoring levels. It is expected that at level 4.5, students are ready to meet state academic content standards with no language support services. ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 measures language across the four domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and across the following content areas: social and instructional English, language arts, math, science, and social studies.







Knows and uses minimal social language and minimal academic language with visual and graphic support.



Knows and uses some social English and general academic language with visual and graphic support.



Knows and uses social English and some specific academic language with visual and graphic support.



Knows and uses social English and some technical academic language. (At a level 4.5 EL students exit ESL services.)



Knows and uses social English and academic language working with modified grade level material. 

How does a student exit EL services?

Once a student scores a composite level 4.5 or above in the annual ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment, they are no longer eligible for ESL services (because they are proficient in English) but will be monitored for a four-year period in case a re-evaluation is deemed necessary.

Monitoring services begin at the time of exit and continue for four consecutive years. The student’s progress is monitored throughout the school year so that support can be provided as needed. These services ensure that every LCD student who exits from ESL services is successful in the general education program in their school.

Whom can I contact for more information?

The Language Acquisition Division (LAD) helps schools provide quality educational services to ELs and support for LCD families. The office is split into three units: Language Access, Instructional Unit, and Welcome Center. Each unit works together to support LCD students and their families.

Language Acquisition Division
Office of Teaching and Learning
Phone: (202) 671-0750

Emery Education Campus,
1720 First Street NE,
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 671-0750

Elba Garcia, Executive Director
(202) 868-6580

Administrative/Support Staff

Vilmarie Duprey, Secretary/Timekeeper
(202) 868-6570

Hoa Duong, Administrative Officer
Budget, finance, procurement & accounts payable
(202) 868-6571

Welcome Center

At LAD’s Welcome Center students are assessed for English Language Proficiency. Based on assessment results, students receive grade and program placement recommendations. Parents and students receive an orientation on DCPS programs, services, and activities, as well as information on their rights, roles, and responsibilities. The Welcome Center provides guidance to secondary students regarding graduation requirements and transcript evaluations of high school courses taken abroad. Additionally, referrals are provided for community-based resources when needed.


Raquel Ortiz, Welcome Center Manager
(202) 868-6510

Asunción Alvarado, Receptionist
(202) 868-6506

Ana Acevedo, Parent Liaison
(202) 868-6505

Melody Garcia, Assessments Analyst
(202) 868-6507

Senovia Hurtado-Aviles, Itinerant Bilingual Counselor
(202) 674-8754

Salem Lemma, Welcome Center Coordinator
(202) 868-6508

Ivy Chaine, Transcript Evaluation Specialist
Foreign Transcript Evaluations
(202) 868-6504

Instructional Programming and School Support

The LAD Instructional Unit provides EL students with access to rigorous and engaging academic experiences at all schools within DCPS.  As part of that work, the LAD instructional unit plans specialized summer programming for ELs, supports curriculum development and amplification, and facilitates professional learning opportunities for teachers and staff working with ELs and supports the DCPS School Cluster Model by working closely with groups of schools and school leaders.  The Instructional Unit is guided by the belief that all EL students and multilingual students bring great assets to their school communities.

Dr. Maria Joie Austria, Director of Curriculum, Strategy and School Supports
(202) 280-8979

Rosanna DeMammos, Director of Academic Programming for ELs and Itinerant ESL Services
(202) 868-6579

Erika Pereira, Manager, Elementary School ESL
(202) 868-6572

Deborah Maatta , Itinerant ESL Instructional Coach
(202) 270-3310

Dr. Nicole Ugel, Manager, Middle School ESL
(202) 868-6573
(240) 277-6770

Tara Lewis, Manager, High School ESL

Margaret Miller, Data Analyst Specialist
ACCESS 2.0® Proficiency test results and the ELLevation Platform (EL Platform for DCPS)
(202) 868-6502

Wedad Yassin,  ESL RISE Coach/Specialist for Secondary
(202) 422-6410

A’isha Crawford,  ESL RISE Coach/Specialist for Elementary

Hee Sang Kwak, Coordinator of ESL Data and Special Projects

Language Access

The Language Access Unit provides translation and interpretation services to schools and central office teams to ensure that information about programs and services is accessible to families with limited English proficiency. For more information, visit

Vicki Javier, Language Access Manager
(202) 868-6508

Joel Padilla, Spanish Translator
(202) 868-6508


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