elementary class

English LearnersThe English Learner (EL) program supports multilingual learners in acquiring the English they need in order to succeed in the classroom and beyond, in accordance with the State of Minnesota Guidelines and English Language Proficiency Standards. Incoming students are tested for English proficiency when entering District 196 schools, as well as periodically throughout the school year to determine progress and eligibility for continued instruction.

In EL settings, English learners are part of an English language learning experience where students engage in content study and English learning simultaneously. Students are grouped by proficiency level at the elementary through high school level and may or may not share the same native language.

English Learner identification

In Minnesota, an ELL is defined as a learner who:

  • first learned a language other than English, comes from a home where a language other than English is usually spoken, or does not use English as a primary language;
  • lacks the necessary English skills to fully participate in classes taught in English.

Students are measured by a home language questionnaire (HLQ). The HLQ must be given to every student entering the district for the first time, whether in kindergarten or a later grade regardless of perceived native language. Determining English skill level is measured by observations, teacher judgment, parent recommendations, and/or developmentally appropriate assessment instruments.

Students who are determined to have a primary language other than English are not automatically considered English Learners.  However, all families that indicate the child speaks a language other than or in addition to English are screened to determine if the learner qualifies for English learner service.

English learners come from many different backgrounds.  English learners may include:

  • Students who are born in the US and speak a language in addition to English at home
  • Students who are born in the US and speak a language or languages other than English at home
  • Immigrant students who’ve had formal schooling in another language
  • Immigrant students who’ve had interrupted or limited formal education
  • Refugee students who’ve learned a language other than or in addition to English
Entrance and exit procedures

The following lists the criteria used for determining student eligibility in the English Language Learner (ELL) Program. As defined by the State of Minnesota, students identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP), the state terminology for ELL, must have a home language other than English and be determined by developmentally appropriate measures to lack the necessary English skills to participate fully in classes taught in English.

  • Step I: Home Language Questionnaire or teacher referral indicates possible ELL status.
  • Step II: District 196 Registration Form and informal family interview (preferably at time of registration) indicate possible ELL status.
  • Step III: Assess Oral, Reading, and Writing English Proficiency
  • Step IV: Initial Placement Decision – If a student is not proficient in one or all of the three areas assessed in step III, he/she meets state criteria for ELL service.
  • Step V: Parent Notification – Parents are notified within the first two weeks of enrollment that their son/daughter qualifies for ELL services and informed of student’s proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing, using the District’s Parent Notification Form. Included in the notification is amount of time and type of ELL service. The letter informs parents of their right to refuse service.
  • Step VI: ELL Service – Support student in reading, writing, and speaking listening.
  • Step VII: Exit and Reclassification  – When student meets proficiency targets in reading, writing, and speaking and listening on the WIDA 2.0 assessment of English language development, he/she is exited from ELL service and reclassified.
Frequently Asked Questions

My child was born here. Can he still receive help from the ELL teacher?

  • A student may receive ELL services even if he/she was born in the United States if the student first learned a language other than English and/or comes from a home where a language other than English is usually spoken. The student must qualify for ELL services based on the district’s language assessments.


My child speaks good English. Why is he receiving ELL service?

  • Your child might be an advanced level ELL student. Advanced students are often able to speak English well, but they are still learning the English needed to read and write at grade level.


Can I refuse ELL support for my child?

  • You may refuse ELL support for your child. You will need to contact your child’s ELL teacher. The ELL teacher will ask you to sign a form.


How long does a student receive ELL service?

  • Normally, students will learn to speak English well within 1-3 years. Academic English, the language needed to read, write, and be successful in school, can take 5-10 years to learn. Ongoing evaluation will determine the need for continued support. In general, District 196 ELL students remain in service for fewer years than the state average.


How is a student exited from the ELL Program?

  • Assessments and teachers’ observations determine when a student no longer needs support from ELL. When a student scores “proficient” in the reading, writing, and speaking of English on local or state assessments, he/she is monitored or exited from ELL service.


Does the district have bilingual programs?

  • The ELL program is taught in English. Although many ELL teachers are bilingual, there are no bilingual programs in the district. There are roughly 70 different languages spoken in the homes of District 196 students who attend 28 schools.


Can the district ask for a student’s immigration status?

  • No. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plyer v. Doe [457 U.S 202 (1982)] that undocumented students have the same right to attend public school as do U.S. citizens and permanent residents. As a result, public schools may not engage in any practices that “chill” or hinder the right or access to school. This includes requiring students or parents to disclose or document their immigration status.