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ESOL Toolkit for Staff

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A growing number of our students and families speak primary languages other than English. Here are resources about English for Speakers of Other Languages, as well as tools and tips for serving families who are learning English. 

Registering and identifying students

Where do families register students who are not native English speakers?

All families of English learners can come to the district's Multilingual Enrollment and Support Center (MESC) to enroll students in any grade, get help with middle and high school choice, plan high school courses, and learn about community resources. Families of elementary and middle school students can also enroll at their neighborhood schools

What documents do families need?

All families complete the registration form (English | Spanish) and provide the same documents when they register, including proof of required immunizations.

By law, families are not required to prove legal status in the United States and do not need to show social security cards or any immigration documents. School staff should not ask for these documents or inquire about a family's or student's immigration status. However, for refugee students, the I-94 visa can be used to confirm birth date if no birth certificate is available.

How does a school serve families that don't speak English?

All families are entitled to high-quality service in a language they understand. First, determine the language the family speaks; then use one of these supports.

Face-to-face interpretation. Bilingual staff assigned to ESOL sites can assist with interpretation as their schools, as their schedules allow. (They may also provide limited translation services and interpretation for family meetings, phone calls home, and other schoolwide events.) Bilingual staff member may be able to support meetings and events after school hours. School staff may submit an online request for an interpreter at least five days before the event. 

Over- the- Phone-Interpretation (OPI).  ACSI's OPI services can be called to provide interpretation over the phone at 202-816-7706.  Schools have individual access PINs and should only use the Schools General PIN 45070838, or the Central office General PIN 90420886 if their school has not set up individual accounts yet (General PINS will be discontinued after May 26, 2023). To schedule for IEP meetings and other communication about Special Education services, please call ACSI at 202-816-7706 and use the Special Education access PIN 486.

Translation. City Schools produces many printed documents in English and Spanish, and this website can be translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, and Spanish by clicking the "Translate" link at the top right of any page. In addition, the district has a contract with TransAct, which houses numerous school-related documents in multiple languages.

For additional resources on translation and interpretation, review this information sheet. When using our approved vendors, fill out the Interpreter Request Form below and submit it directly to the vendor.

Interpreter Request Form: PDF | spreadsheet

How are students identified for ESOL services?

The registration form includes a "home language survey." Based on the family's answers to the survey questions, a student whose primary language is not English is flagged in Infinite Campus for assessment of English language proficiency (Kindergarten W-APT or the WIDA Screener) and placement for ESOL services, if appropriate. If your school is an ESOL site, ESOL teachers will administer the assessment.

If your school is not an ESOL site, an assessment teacher will visit your school to talk to the child’s family about transferring to the closest ESOL site or refusing service. Email to get the name of the assessment teacher assigned to your school.

Can families refuse ESOL services for their children?

Yes, after they are fully informed by the ESOL staff of the impact of their choice. The decision to waive services must be noted on the parent notification letter and filed in the blue EL folder, which becomes part of the cumulative record; it should also be recorded in Infinite Campus.

Students are still required to participate in the annual WIDA ACCESS, as mandated by the Maryland State Board of Education. Accommodations must also be provided for these students and documentation filed in their EL folder.

Do all students and parents from households where English is not the primary language receive language services?

No. Keep in mind that a student who does not speak English well may have a parent or guardian who is fluent in English; conversely, a student who is fluent in English may have parents or guardians who are not fluent. Students receive ESOL services based on their English proficiency determined by the Kindergarten W-APT or the WIDA Screener and the annual WIDA ACCESS. Parents and guardians must receive information related to their child's education in a language they understand, with interpretation or translation services as needed.

Academic scheduling, programming, and accommodations

How are ESOL services scheduled?

The ESOL teacher must schedule every student on her or his roster, with different service provided based on age, language proficiency, and academic background. Schedules must be approved by the principal, with approved schedules sent to the ESOL department (200 E. North Ave., Room 303). Because students may arrive at any time during the year, schedules should be updated accordingly and sent to the principal and ESOL department. 



How does scheduling change from elementary through secondary grades?

Pre-k: The diagnostic PreLAS is used to determine English proficiency and eligibility for ESOL service in pre-k. The type and frequency of ESOL support varies according to the time ESOL teachers have available. The WIDA K-Screener is administered in the spring to determine ESOL eligibility for the following school year.

Elementary grades: Refer to the how-to guide for elementary scheduling.

High school: For scheduling, refer to ELD (ESOL) scheduling information and trajectories linked in district scheduling guidance. See district promotion requirements. Contact the Office of English Language Development with questions.

What instructional models are used in ESOL?

Models include integrated instruction, sheltered instruction, ESOL classes, and immersion. Read more here. 

What supports ensure students can access daily instruction?



What accommodations can English learners receive?

English learners can receive direct linguistic support (e.g., human reader of selected sections or entire readings, text-to-speech software, bilingual dictionaries, scribe) or indirect linguistic support (e.g., responding on test books, extended time, schedule changes, graphic organizers, reducing distractions). They can also receive accommodations for end-of-year assessments (language and math), including extended time, word-to-word dictionary, scribe or speech to text, and directions read or clarified in the native language. 

Limited accommodations are available on statewide tests for English learners (including those whose parent/guardians have waived services, but not for reclassified learners who have exited ESOL within the past two years). ESOL teachers and school testing coordinators can provide additional information; please also review the Maryland Accommodations Manual.

As with all students, English learners are eligible to receive accommodations under a 504 Plan or IEP.

Who determines and administers accommodations?

ESOL and general education teachers should collaborate to determine and administer appropriate accommodations. If the student has an IEP, the special education teacher must be part of the collaboration. ESOL teachers often have information about students that can help determine the best accommodations (e.g., whether the student has strong enough first language skills to benefit from the use of a bilingual dictionary). During standardized assessments, any certified teacher can provide the appropriate accommodations to students. 

Are there special considerations regarding grading and promotion of English learners?

English learners are evaluated based on accommodations and supports and should not be penalized for not yet being fluent in English. Read more here.

Annual English language proficiency assessment

What assessment is used?

WIDA ACCESS is used to measure growth in listening, speaking, reading, writing, comprehension, and literacy. It is a primarily online test similar to PARCC and iReady, with some paper-based sections.

When and how is the test administered?

WIDA ACCESS is typically given during a five-week window in January and February. It is divided into several grade bands: K, 1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12. As a result of the multiple groups and individual testing, completing the assessment is time consuming and often takes a significant portion of the testing window to complete. 

Who is responsible for administering the test?

At ESOL sites, the school testing coordinator along with the ESOL teachers coordinate and administer the test. At non-ESOL sites, the school testing coordinator is responsible. 

Can students practice before the test administration?

WIDA provides online training materials; a login is required. Additionally, students can use other online programs to practice speaking into a headset with a microphone. 

What do test results show?

Students receive an overall proficiency score as well as individual scores for reading, writing, listening, speaking, comprehension (reading and listening), and literacy (reading and writing). Scores range from 1.0 to 6.0 (indicating proficiency levels, not grade levels). Students exit the ESOL program once they have received a 4.5 or greater for their overall proficiency score. 

Note: English learners who achieve this proficiency score are designated as reclassified English learners for two years following their exit from ESOL services. They can continue to receive supports during this time, but are not eligible for accommodations.


What documents are required?

The following are placed in the student’s EL folder and considered part of the student's cumulative record:

  • Annual parent/guardian notification letter (parent/guardian signature required)
  • Accommodations and instructional supports documents (parent/guardian signature required on accommodations form)
  • Initial placement assessment score report (Kindergarten W-APT or the WIDA Screener)
  • Annual English language proficiency assessment score reports (WIDA ACCESS)
  • October work sample (if the student arrives after October, then obtain a work sample as soon as possible)

Who is responsible for maintaining the EL record?

The ESOL teacher of record, as recorded in Infinite Campus, is responsible for all documentation related to ESOL.

ESOL staff

ESOL positions are locked and funded centrally, with scope of work aligned to Title III requirements. Recruitment is a collaboration between the individual school and the ESOL department, and candidates are reviewed by the ESOL department to ensure that Title III requirements are met. Attendance at professional development provided by the ESOL department throughout the school year is expected for these staff members.

ESOL locked positions are provided for a basic, district required model of language support instruction and include the following.

  • ESOL educational associate: Supports planning, development, or administration of the ESOL program; provides systemic and school-based professional development; functions as a liaison between the ESOL department and schools; clarifies district policy guidelines and regulations; and supports ESOL teachers in best practices for instruction and assessment.
  • ESOL teacher: Provides English language instruction to English learners, using an instructional model based on student needs; assesses and maintains required data. 
  • ESOL paraeducator and assistant: Supports parents through interpretation services; ensures parents are engaged in the school community; prepares and leads parent workshops; provides instructional support.  
  • ESOL assessment teacher: Assesses and completes paperwork for students who have enrolled in non-ESOL sites across the district; works with administrators and staff at non-ESOL schools to complete assessment tasks, including gathering initial student data, scheduling of diagnostic and annual tests, completion of the ESOL accommodation forms, submission of transfer paperwork, filing of test score reports, and updating of student records.

If additional services are deemed necessary, the school must provide the funding for those positions.

For more information, review the staffing fact sheet.