Understanding Classification of English Language Learners

Understanding how students are identified as English Language Learners (ELL), how their academic needs are met in the classroom, and the process for reclassifying students as fluent English proficient (RFEP) is often a confusing process. This document is aimed at clearing up some of the confusion as well as answering some of the most frequently asked questions regarding English Language Learners.
The first step in the process is to identify English Language Learners. When students are enrolled in a California public school their parents are asked to complete an English Language Survey. If parents respond to any of the first three questions on the survey with a language other than English, the state requires California public schools to test the English proficiency of these students.  School districts have 30 days to test all incoming kindergarteners as well as students who are new to the public school system. New students can include students coming from private schools, out of state schools, and from out of the country. Kindergarten and first grade students are tested on their listening and speaking skills. Second through sixth graders are tested on listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Results of this CELDT testing are usually received in December or January. Students are identified at five levels of proficiency from Beginning, Early Intermediate, Intermediate, Early Advanced and Advanced. For a more detailed description of these levels please see the general descriptions given below.  Starting this year, only those students that are new to the public school setting and/or new to California will be tested using CELDT.  In the Spring, students that already have been in the California school system will be taking the ELPAC.  There are three "new" proficiency levels:  Emerging (formerly Beginning and Early Intermediate), Expanding (formerly Intermediate), and Bridging (formerly Early Advanced and Advanced).  
If a student initially tests at an Early Advanced or Advanced level and has teacher and parent recommendation the student can be classified as Initial Fluent English Proficient (IFEP). They are not classified as an English Language Learner. If they do not test at an early advanced or advanced level they are placed in the program and classified as an English Language Learner (ELL).
English Language Learners are placed in a classroom with a credentialed teacher who is qualified to meet their needs in the classroom. Students who score at a Beginning, Early Intermediate, or Intermediate students who didn’t make one years growth in the previous year may be eligible for additional services. A qualified ELL assistant may work with these students individually or in small groups to help develop their skills. In addition, “Everybody Loves Learning” is an after school program taught by credentialed teachers and aimed at building skills as well as providing help with homework.
Students who are classified as ELL are retested annually. When a student’s CELDT score meets the definition of proficiency they are eligible to be reviewed for redesignation. Again the students must have had an overall score of early advanced or advanced, and scores must be intermediate or above for each of the sub-skill areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. 
If the student meets this scoring criterion, the next step is to evaluate the student’s performance in English Language Arts on the California State Test (CST). This test is administered in the spring of each year to all students in grades two through six. Scores from the state are not received until the beginning of the next school year. Because of this criterion, ELL students can only be considered for reclassification in third through sixth grades when the results of the state tests have been received by the school. The guideline for determining is English proficient is a score in the midpoint of basic on the English Language Arts portion of the CST/
The next step for a student who meets proficiency on the CELDT test and CST is contacting the child’s current teacher to establish the student’s academic performance in the classroom. At this time the student’s report card grades are also evaluated. If the student is making good progress the school moves on to the last step.
Finally, a reclassification meeting is scheduled and parents, teachers, ELD Coordinators, and administrators are invited to review the evidence that the student is ready for reclassification. A decision is made at this meeting as to whether or not the student is ready to be reclassified as fluent English proficient (RFEP). Once a student is reclassified they are never put back into the program. Their academic progress is monitored for two years. If the student fails to progress, other interventions may be implemented to meet their learning needs.