Multilingual Learner Identification

(Multilingual learners were formerly referred to as English learners.)

Maine's Multilingual Learner Identification Policy

All students in Maine schools undergo the same process for determining multilingual learner status. The first step of that process is administration of the Language Use Survey. If a student's Language Use Survey reflects a primary/home language other than English (meaning that any of the three questions is answered with a language other than or in addition to English), an English language proficiency screener must be administered. In order to ensure consistent and equitable identification practices, school staff may not make subjective decisions about which students will and will not be screened.

See the Identification and Placement Guidance document for current required screeners and their corresponding identification thresholds by grade level, as well as details about logistics for administering the screening assessments. (Note that students whose only primary/home language other than English is American Sign Language are not eligible for multilingual learner status per federal policy. See this priority notice for more information.)

Per federal regulation, multilingual learners are required to be identified within 30 days of enrollment.

Language Use Survey and Parent/Guardian Letter

The Language Use Survey (LUS), available in 26 languages in addition to English, must be administered to every newly enrolled student (pre-Kindergarten through grade 12) and schools are required under federal civil rights laws to identify all students whose primary or home language is other than (or in addition to) English and who are not yet proficient in English. Because a student has a civil right to be identified and provided ESOL services (if eligible) parent/guardian consent is not required in the identification process. Parents/guardians may decline services, but schools are still obligated under civil rights law to meet the language-learning needs of all identified multilingual learners. 

Protocol for Requesting a Change in Multilingual Learner Identification

***Note that requests for change in ML status will not be accepted during the ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS for ELLs assessment administration window, which is 1/9/23-3/3/23. All identified MLs must be assessed.***

If a student has been identified by a school in Maine as a multilingual learner (ML) but a teacher, school administrator, parent/guardian, or the student himself/herself (over the age of 18) believes this identification to be incorrect, a request for change in identification may be made. Please note that students who were properly identified as MLs following state policy and have not yet reached the Maine DOE’s definition of English language proficiency (a composite proficiency level of 4.5 on ACCESS for ELLs or level P2 on Alternate ACCESS, as applicable) are not eligible for a change in ML identification.

To initiate this request, a letter or email (in any language) must be submitted to the student’s district superintendent. If the superintendent approves the request, the superintendent will complete a Request for Change in ML Identification.

The final decision will be made by the ML identification review committee at the Maine Department of Education within two weeks of receipt of the request. The superintendent is responsible for informing the student’s parent/guardian of the Department’s final decision in the parent’s/guardian’s preferred language and format, written or oral. Oral notifications must be followed by written notice. The Department’s decision may be appealed in light of additional evidence.

It is important to ensure that identifications are accurate prior to the start of the ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS testing window, as requests for change in ML identification are not accepted during the testing window. All students who are identified as MLs during the testing window must be administered ACCESS for ELLs or Alternate ACCESS for ELLs, as applicable. See the Maine page on the WIDA website for this year's dates for Maine's testing window.

Reentering a Student into Multilingual Learner Status

Students who were formerly identified as MLs and have exited may be eligible to officially re-enter ML status if they demonstrate a need for continued English language learning support. To determine if a former ML needs to be re–entered into ML status, districts must have a clear protocol for monitoring during the two-year intensive monitoring period and beyond. To effectively monitor, all general education teachers must have an awareness of how language learning needs may manifest in the classroom, as well as an understanding of how non-linguistic factors may affect student performance. To assist districts in developing a strong monitoring protocol, the US Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition has produced Chapter 8 of the EL Tool KitTools and Resources for Monitoring and Exiting English Learners from EL Programs and Services. It includes sample monitoring forms, information about digital monitoring systems, and a self-assessment. 

When a continued need for ESOL services is suspected, teachers should refer the student to the ESOL teacher/coordinator for re–screening. The student should be administered the WIDA Screener Online. When a former ML scores below an overall proficiency level of 4.5, the district must submit an online request to officially re–enter the student into ML status in the state student data system. Note that students who were screened for ML status upon enrollment, but did not qualify at that time, may be re–screened at any time if a potential need for ESOL services becomes apparent. 

Essential Provisions and Services (EPS) funding for the next school year is based on the previous school year’s October 1 enrollment counts. Students who are re–entered into ML status are eligible for an additional weighted EPS funding amount, like all other students who are MLs. 

For questions about multilingual learner identification, contact April Perkins, ESOL/Bilingual Programs Specialist, at april.perkins@maine.gov. 

FAQ

Is there a way to know if a student who is transferring from another Maine SAU has already been identified as a multilingual learner? 

Yes. Once the student's enrollment has been updated to the new SAU, the school or district data personnel can look at the Attending Student Report in NEO and see if the student has an EL Start Date (and possibly an EL End Date, if exited). 

If a student with a primary/home language other than (or in addition to) English transfers from one Maine school administrative unit (SAU) to another, is rescreening necessary?

If the student was identified as a multilingual learner (ML) in the previous SAU, rescreening is not necessary. A student’s ML status remains until achieving proficiency on ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS for ELLs. However, if the student was not identified as an ML in the previous SAU, and there is no evidence of English language proficiency (ELP) screening, the student’s new SAU is responsible for administering the WIDA Screener Online to determine the student’s status.

If a student who was identified as a multilingual learner in another state transfers to a Maine SAU, is it necessary to screen the student?

Different states have different Language Use Surveys, screening tools, and identification thresholds. When a student enrolls in a Maine SAU for the first time, the family must complete Maine’s Language Use Survey (LUS). If it indicates a primary/home language other than (or in addition to) English, ELP screening is required. However, if the student is coming from another WIDA consortium member state and an ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS for ELLs score report from that member state indicates that the student reached Maine’s exit threshold within the past 12 months, screening is not required.

If a student who exited multilingual learner status in another state transfers to a Maine SAU, is it necessary to screen the student?

Different states have different English language proficiency assessments and exit thresholds. Exiting multilingual learner status in another state does not necessarily mean that student will not be identified as a multilingual learner in Maine. As with all students, the first step is to administer the Language Use Survey. If it indicates a primary/home language other than (or in addition to) English, it is then necessary to determine the student’s level of English language proficiency. If the student is coming from another WIDA consortium member state and an ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS for ELLs score report from that member state indicates that the student reached Maine’s exit threshold within the past 12 months, screening is not required. However, if the student has not reached Maine’s exit threshold, the student will be identified as a multilingual learner.

Is it necessary to screen a student with a primary/home language other than (or in addition to) English if that student has a disability?

Yes. Students with disabilities may be identified as multilingual learners through the same means as all other students, with appropriate testing accommodations as specified in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan. See the guidance manual on Identifying and Serving Multilingual Learners with Disabilities for more information.

What should be done if a parent/guardian indicates English only on the Language Use Survey, but school staff observe evidence that the student has a primary/home language other than English?

The “School Use Only” section at the bottom of the Language Use Survey will be used to document the evidence, and then the student can be administered an English language proficiency screener.

Do parents/guardians need to provide consent for administration of an English language proficiency screener?

Because a student has a civil right to multilingual learner identification, schools are not required to secure parent/guardian consent for screening. However, it is best practice to communicate openly with families about the assessments their child will participate in.

What should be done if a student is erroneously identified as a multilingual learner?

If an educator or parent/guardian suspects that a student may have been erroneously identified as a multilingual learner, a request for change in multilingual learner identification may be submitted to the Department. This process is only appropriate for students who do not have a primary/home language other than English and/or who are proficient in English.

If a student has been exposed to another language but only speaks English, can that student be identified as a multilingual learner?

It is possible. The Language Use Survey asks three deliberately designed questions that are intended to establish whether a student has a primary/home language other than (or in addition to) English. In some households, a student may be exposed to another language without developing productive skills in that language. In such cases, the student may still be considered to have a primary/home language other than (or in addition to) English, which would mean screening is required.

If a student was adopted from family that speaks a language other than English, but the primary/home language is now English, can the student still be identified as a multilingual learner?

Yes. If the student had a primary or home language other than English prior to adoption, this should be reflected on the student’s Language Use Survey in question one and/or question two. The student would then need to be screened, as with all other potential multilingual learners.

What happens if a student has two (or more) Language Use Surveys completed at different times (such as in the case of transferring from one Maine SAU to another), and the responses are conflicting?

It can certainly happen that a student’s circumstances and language use change over time. If the student has already been identified as a multilingual learner by one Maine SAU, that identification remains until the student has exited. However, if the student’s earlier Language Use Survey indicates English only, but a subsequent Language Use Survey indicates a primary/home language other than English, screening is required.