New Mexico - Public Education Department

Serving ELs FAQ Collapse AllExpand All
  1. Who is an English Language Learner (ELL)?
The ELL term is synonymous with English learner (EL) which is used by the federal government in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Section 8101[20] where an EL is defined as an individual:
  • who is aged 3 through 21;
  • who is enrolled or preparing to enroll in an elementary school or secondary school;
  • (i) who was not born in the United States or whose native language is a language other than English;
    (ii) (I) who is a Native American or Alaska Native, or a native resident of the outlying areas; and
          (II) who comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on the individual's level of English language proficiency; or
    (iii) who is migratory, whose native language is not English, and who comes from an environment where a language other than English is dominant; and
  • whose difficulties in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding English may be sufficient to deny the individual
  • (i) the ability to meet the challenging state academic standards;
    (ii) the ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction is English; or
    (iii) the opportunity to participate fully in society.
  2. What is the difference between English Language Development (ELD) and sheltered instruction?
The primary focus of ELD is on developing the English language skills of English Learner (EL) students. Content learning during ELD is a secondary focus (Saunders, Goldenberg, Marcelletti, 2013). ELD instruction is provided separately from content instruction. Since the primary goal of ELD is learning English, the instruction should be leveled according to the English language proficiency (ELP) levels of the students, as measured by the annual ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment, which is the required English language proficiency assessment for ELs in New Mexico. Sheltered instruction is content area instruction that is adjusted since it is taught in a language that the student does not yet fully comprehend. The purpose is to ensure that the student can still learn the skills and knowledge in these content areas (Saunders, Goldenberg, and Marcelletti, 2013). During sheltered instruction, content is the primary focus and language is secondary.
  3. How are English Learners (ELs) identified?
The identification process for ELs is a two-step process. First, parents complete the Language Usage Survey (LUS) upon initial enrollment in public school. A parent only completes this form once in a student's public education career. If a student is transferring from one district to another in New Mexico, the LUS completed at the previous district must transfer as part of student records to the new school. The new school should request this information specifically. The LUS is kept in the student's cumulative file.

Secondly, if any answers to questions 1-6 on the LUS are 'yes' or if a language other than English is indicated in question 7 of the LUS, then the English language proficiency screener (currently this is the W-APT) is administered to the student. Based on the W-APT results a student is either identified as an initial fluent English proficient student (IFEP) or as an English learner (EL). The W-APT results are kept in the cumulative file and are transferred as part of student records to schools the student attends. For further information and resources on the EL identification process, please see the LUS Process Map and the LUS Guidance handbook in the links below. To access the LUS Process Map directly, click on the following link:

The direct link to the LUS Guidance Handbook is:
  4. What should a school do with the completed Language Usage Survey (LUS) form and the W-APT results?
The completed LUS form, the W-APT, as well as the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 results must be kept in the student's cumulative file and must transfer as part of student records.
  5. Can a student be identified as an English Learner (EL) using a Teacher Observation Form?
New Mexico has a three-tier Response to Intervention (RtI) framework outlined in subsection D of of New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC). In Tier 1 the focus is universal screening, appropriate delivery of core instruction with differentiated instruction, data-based targeted interventions to support the acquisition of core content, behavioral interventions, and positive supports. The focus of Tier 2 is to provide strategic and individualized support for at-risk students (struggling or significantly advanced) for whom Tier 1 instruction and universal interventions prove insufficient.

As part of Tier 2 a school-based team called the Student Assistance Team (SAT) gathers all available data about a student who is not making sufficient progress in Tier 1, develops an hypothesis regarding a possible cause for the problem, and then designs an individualized SAT intervention plan and/or behavioral intervention plan (BIP), as necessary. The teacher observation form can be used as part of this Tier 2 data collection process. The Teacher Observation Form cannot be used as a tool for EL identification. If the frequent progress monitoring indicates that the difficulties are related to lack of English proficiency the SAT team can, in such a case, make the decisions to administer the W-APT English language proficiency screener to the student. A second language acquisition specialist should be part of the SAT team in such a case.

For further information concerning this process, see the Serving English Learners Technical Assistance Manual:

The RtI Framework Manual also includes information about this process: Manual most updated (2.15).pdf
  6. What are the endorsement requirements for a teacher who teaches an English Language Development (ELD) class for English Learners (ELs)?
Serving English Learners (ELs) is a federal requirement. Teachers of ELs must be proficient in English and be provided appropriate training for serving ELs. A TESOL endorsement is not a federal or state requirement for teaching ELs, but it can serve as an indicator of important knowledge and skills needed to effectively serve ELs. The U.S. Department of Education's (ED) English Learner Toolkit makes the following points on staffing an EL program:
  • Districts/schools must provide the personnel necessary to effectively implement EL programs.
  • Necessary personnel include teachers who are qualified to provide EL services, core-content teachers who are highly qualified in their field as well as trained to support EL students, and trained administrators who can evaluate these teachers.
  • Districts must provide adequate professional development and follow-up training to prepare EL program teachers and administrators to implement the EL program effectively.
  • Districts must ensure that administrators who evaluate EL program staff are adequately trained to meaningfully evaluate whether EL teachers are appropriately employing their training in the classroom for the EL program model to successfully achieve its educational objectives.
The English Learner Toolkit, Chapter 3, focuses on tools and resources for staffing and supporting an English learner program:

Please note: A TESOL endorsement may be required if serving ELs in a New Mexico state-funded bilingual multicultural education program (BMEP). See the BMEP licensure requirements:
  7. What is a district/school's federal obligation for serving English Learners (ELs)?
  1. The federal requirement is that a district must offer an EL program and service until an EL student
    1. is proficient in English and;
    2. can participate meaningfully in the standard instructional programs without EL supports within a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Such an EL program and service must meet the standards established in Castañeda v. Pickard (1981):
    1. The EL program must be based on a sound educational theory.
    2. Programs and practices must be reasonably calculated so that the program and service can be implemented effectively (including having the necessary resources).
    3. The EL program must be evaluated for effectiveness to ensure it produces results within a reasonable period of time.
  8. What must be included in an English Learner (EL) program?
The two goals of an EL program are:

1. Attaining English language proficiency

For English language proficiency, a district/school must offer an English Language Development (ELD) course or a dedicated ELD block in elementary school that has to be at the minimum 45 minutes. The instruction in the ELD course and/or block should meet the linguistic needs of the students based on their English language proficiency (ELP) levels. The primary goal is learning English and learning content is secondary. (Saunders, Goldenberg, Marcelletti, 2013). In the secondary level, an integrated ELD-ELA class can be offered to EL students, whose English Language Proficiency (ELP) level is above level 4, as measured by the overall score on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment.

2. Meaningful access to the standard instructional program within a reasonable period of time

For ELs to learn grade-level content and thus have meaningful access to the standard instructional program, all content-area classes must shelter instruction and offer language supports for EL student. Learning content is the primary goal and language is secondary (Saunders, Goldenberg, Marcelletti, 2013).
  9. Can parents refuse to have their English Learner (EL) student take the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment?
A parent cannot refuse the EL classification or the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment. It is a parent's right to know that their child is becoming proficient in English and can have meaningful access to all content areas and courses. EL identification and exiting EL status are required as part of federal guidance and policy supported by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Students exit from EL status by scoring an overall (composite) score of 5.0 or higher on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment. Thus, not taking the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment denies a student from demonstrating English language proficiency and the right to exit from EL status.

Per state regulation, NMAC, districts and schools must provide support and guidance for parents throughout the EL identification process as described in the LUS Guidance Handbook:
  10. What assessments is an English Learner (EL) student required to take?
An EL student takes the English language proficiency (ACCESS for ELLs 2.0) assessment until the EL meets the state exit criteria. All students, including ELs, are assessed for academic achievement. A student whose home language is Spanish and who has been in U.S. public schools under three years can be assessed in Spanish in the content areas of language arts and science through the Standards Based Assessment, and in math through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). A student can receive a Testing in English Waiver for testing in the home language of Spanish for the above-mentioned tests if the district requests this through the Testing in English Waiver process. This waiver is valid for one year and can be requested up two times. No more than two waivers are allowed. To be granted a Testing in English Waiver a student must be an EL and must have attended a US school for no more than five years including kindergarten. Please note: Students who are enrolled for the first year in a U.S. school may receive a language exemption from the standards based assessment for the reading subtest only. In this situation, the student's score on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment, if available, will be substituted for the reading score.

For more information about waivers for eligible ELs, please contact the Assessment, Accountability and Evaluation Division at the Public Education Department at The waiver may be accessed by public school district staff here:
  11. Can English Learner (EL) students whose home language is Navajo receive a Testing in English Waiver?
No. The Testing in English Waiver is for tests in the home language of Spanish only, per New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC) L(1)-(2). However, an EL student can receive accommodations, where appropriate.

An allowable accommodation should have been used in daily instruction for a sufficient period of time prior to testing for a student to become comfortable with it. The decision about appropriate accommodations for an ELL is made by a school-based team of at least three staff members who are familiar with the EL student's abilities and language needs, standardized test procedures, and valid ELL test accommodations. Assessment accommodations are allowable changes in assessment administration that help an EL student access the content of the assessment without giving undue assistance. In most cases, assessment accommodations enable an EL student to overcome a language barrier. An allowable assessment accommodation does not alter the concept being measured.

For further guidance on accommodation procedures, see the 2015-2016 Student Assessment Accommodations Manual:

For allowable accommodations for each assessment, please see the assessment vendor accommodations manuals, which can be found in the Assessment, Accountability and Evaluation Division's webpage:
  12. Can an English Learner (EL) student who has scored an overall (composite) score of 5.1 on ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment still receive a Testing in English Waiver?
No. An overall score of 5.0 or higher on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment means that the student is proficient in English and exits EL status. The Testing in English Waiver is an accommodation for ELs; a student who earned a score of 5.1 on ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 is no longer classified as an EL and does not qualify for EL accommodations such as the Testing in English Waiver.
  13. Do students with disabilities who are also ELs take the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment?
Students with disabilities who are also ELs must receive services in both areas: language services as well as disability related services; neither service supersedes the other. A parent can decide to opt a child out of EL services but not out of the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment. The student takes the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment annually; any accommodations must be allowable under the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment and written into the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan of the student.

Students with cognitive disabilities, who also take the New Mexico Alternative Performance Assessment (NMAPA) assessment, can take the Alternate ACCESS assessment, if this is specified in the student's IEP. An IEP team for an EL student with a disability should include a second language acquisition specialist to ensure that all the needs of the student are being met. For further information please see the ELs in Special Education FAQ on the BMEB webpage:

There is also relevant and useful information on ELs with disabilities in the U.S. Department of Education's English Learner Toolkit, Chapter 6:

For further information on serving ELs please see the Serving English Learners Technical Assistance Manual:
  14. What is the process for exiting an English Learner (EL) student from EL status and what forms should be used to monitor Reclassified English Proficient Students (RFEP) or exited ELs?
Per NMAC, exited ELs or RFEPs must be monitored for academic progress for two years. Each district creates their own monitoring system for RFEPs including documents used. Such documents inform the district of the effectiveness of the EL program(s) used at the district as well as how well the EL program(s) has created a basis for continued success for RFEPs. The U.S. Department of Education's English Learner Toolkit, Chapter 8, discusses monitoring and exiting ELs. Other chapters focus on serving ELs who opt out of EL programs with tools and resources. These are helpful in creating district and school documentation that works in ensuring that students succeed after exiting status or when opting out of EL services. The links to each chapter are below.

Chapter 8: Monitoring and Exiting English Learners from EL Programs and Services:

Chapter 7: Serving English Learners who Opt-Out of EL Programs:

  15. Must identified English learners (ELs) participate in a New Mexico state-funded bilingual multicultural education program (BMEP)?
No. However, districts must serve ELs as required by federal law. Districts should seek local community input in the decision-making process to ensure EL students receive the education they are entitled to. Some districts—after thoughtful consultation with relevant stakeholders which include parents, families, tribal entities, and community members—determine to meet the academic and language learning needs of their EL students through state-funded BMEPs. If your district/school is interested in providing a BMEP that serves ELs, please contact the Bilingual Multicultural Education Bureau (BMEB) for more information.

The federal requirement is that a district must offer an EL program and service until an EL student
  1. is proficient in English and
  2. without EL supports within a reasonable amount of time
To ensure that ELs become proficient in English, ELs must be provided a distinct block of English Language Development (ELD) instruction, where the primary focus is on learning the English language. Please see question number 8 in this FAQ for further details.

For further information on state-funded BMEPs:
  16. What is Title III and how does it support EL programs?
Title III is supplemental federal funding to increase the effectiveness of the district's required base EL program. The purpose of Title III is to improve the education of ELs by assisting ELs to learn English and meet challenging state academic content standards (ESEA as amended by ESSA, Sec. 3315 (a)). For further information on Title III:
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