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English Language Learner (ELL) Support

photo of young student of color at work


DC Public Schools (DCPS) serves more than 5,200 students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). Our students come from 160 different countries and speak over 200 different languages, including dialects. DCPS offers several programs for ELL students which are described in more detail below.

Nearly 75% of our ELL population comes from a background where Spanish is spoken at home. Our other top 4 languages are: Amharic, French, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Who is an English language Learner?

An ELL student is defined as a linguistically and culturally diverse (LCD) student who has an overall English Language Proficiency (ELP) level of 1-4 on the ACCESS for ELLs™ test administered each year. ELL students may also be referred to as “limited English proficient” (LEP) in legal documents.

Students who reach an ELP Level 5 or above are considered English Proficient (EP) students and are no longer identified as ELL students.

ELL students receive services that help them develop their English language proficiency while developing content knowledge in order to be academically successful.

How is a student referred?

Every parent enrolling a child in DCPS must complete a Home Language Survey as part of the complete Enrollment Packet. If the parent/guardian indicates in the survey that:

  • A language other than English is spoken at home,
  • The child communicates in a language other than English, or
  • The student was born outside the United States

The local school will refer the student to the Intake & Assessment Center where the student will be assessed for English Level Proficiency in order to determine eligibility for ESL services. Find our referral letters in the top 5 languages below. 

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 grades Pk3-Kindergarden, listening and speaking are assessed through the IPT and K-WAPT. For grades 1-12, the WAPT is used.  Please refer to the table below for further details.

Grade Level Test Administered Designations Eligible for ESL Services
Pk3 & Pk4 IPT
*Pk4 students tested in the 2nd semester are tested with K-WAPT
NES- Non-English Speaker, LES-Limited-English Speaker, FES- Fluent-English Speaker NES, LES
Kindergarten K-WAPT Low, Medium, High, Exceptional Low-High
1-12 WAPT
*1st grade students tested in the 1st semester are tested with K-WAPT
Levels 1-6 Level 1-4.9

All students who score NES or LES in the IPT, Low-High in the K-WAPT, or Level 1 to Level 4.9 on the WAPT screener tests are eligible for ELL services. Beginning in Kindergarten, these students participate in the annual language proficiency test, ACCESS for ELLs™, each spring until they score an ELP level 5 or above, which indicates the student is English Proficient and should exit the program.

After 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 ELL services, all ELL students are still required to participate in the annual ELP assessment until they score an ELP level 5 or above.

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

What types of ELL 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 the vehicle for language learning and 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.

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 of the languages supported by the program. The following schools have Dual Language Programs: Bancroft: grades PS–5; Bruce-Monroe: grades PS-5; Cleveland: grades PS-5; Columbia Heights Education Campus: grades 6-11; Oyster/Adams: grades PreK-8; Marie Reed: grades PS-5, Powell: grades PS-5; Tyler: grades PS-5.

Secondary Newcomer Literacy Program: This program supports those immigrant students who come to DCPS with a limited 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 support is available at Cardozo EC, Columbia Heights EC, Roosevelt SHS, and Wilson SHS.

International Academy at Cardozo EC: This is an 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 through the use of 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.

Sheltered Content: The goal of Sheltered Content programs is for ELL students to develop English proficiency, content knowledge, and academic language skills such that they can enjoy success in mainstream classes with no 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 completed a minimum of 90 hours of professional development in ESL instruction.

What is the annual ELL assessment (ACCESS for ELLs™)?

The Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State to State (ACCESS for ELLs™) test places students in English language proficiency (ELP) levels 1 to 5.

See the chart below for an explanation of the five scoring levels. It is expected that at level 5, students are ready to meet state academic content standards with no language support services. ACCESS for ELLs™ 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.

Level Name Description
1 Entering Knows and uses minimal social language and minimal academic language with visual and graphic support.
2 Beginning Knows and uses some social English and general academic language with visual and graphic support.
3 Developing Knows and uses social English and some specific academic language with visual and graphic support.
4 Expanding Knows and uses social English and some technical academic language.
5 Bridging Knows and uses social English and academic language working with modified grade level material.

How does a student exit ELL services?

Once a student scores a composite level 5 or above in the annual ACCESS for ELLs™ assessment they are no longer eligible for ESL services (because they are proficient in English), but they will be monitored for a two-year period in case a re-evaluation is deemed necessary.

Monitoring services begin at the time of exit and continue for two 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 bilingual/ESL services is successful in the general education program in their school.

Who can I contact for additional information?

Language Acquisition Division,
Office of Teaching and Learning

The Language Acquisition Division (LAD) helps schools provide quality educational services to ELLs and support for LCD families.  The office is located at: Garrison ES – Administrative Unit, 1200 S Street, NW, East Wing, Washington, DC 20009.   Phone:  (202) 671-0750  Fax: (202) 671-2667

Elba García, Executive Director
(202) 671-0757

Front Office
Asuncion Alvarado, Receptionist
(202) 671-0750

Vilmarie Duprey, Secretary/Timekeeper
(202) 671-0758

Hoa Duong, Administrative Officer
Budget, Finance, Procurement & Accounts payable
(202) 671-0758

Intake & Assessment Center

At the LAD Intake & Assessment Center students are assessed for English Language Proficiency, and 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 Intake 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.

Leidy Navarro, Manager
(202) 671-0751 

Vicki De Javier, Testing Coordinator
(202) 671-2346

Jose Garcia, Assessments Analyst
(202) 671-2345

Altaye Gizaw, Parent Advocate 
(202) 671-2664

Transcript Evaluation, Translations & Language and Access

For questions pertaining to foreign transcript evaluation, translations and interpretations services & Language Access compliance.

Ivy Chaine, Program Coordinator

Instructional Support & Programming

Senior HS ESL Programs: Rosanna DeMammos, Content Specialist (202) 671-2591

Middle School ESL Programs: Nicole Ugel, Manager (202) 671-0753

Elementary ESL Programs: Lorna Jefferson, Content Specialist (202) 671-0761    

Dual Language ProgramsKatarina Brito, Dual Language Developer (202) 671-0762

Data and Assessment for ELLs

Student’s English Level Proficiency test results, reports, and data analysis for the purposes of providing or improving instruction, program evaluation or administration of programs for Linguistically and Culturally Diverse (LCD) students.

Margaret Miller, Data Analyst Specialist
(202) 671-2669

Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE)

DCPS is one Local Education Agency (LEA) among other LEA’s that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) oversees. OSSE sets statewide policies, provides resources and support, and exercises accountability for all public education in DC.

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