Terms & Programs Associated with English Learners


Accommodations: changes in instruction and assessment, including state mandated testing

BICS: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. Social interaction language

Bilingual Education: Instruction in two languages, usually a home language and school language

CALP: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. Academic “school” language

Comprehensible Input: presenting content / language in a meaningful way to the learner (e.g. visuals, modeling, scaffolds, multimodal, context clues, short sentences, avoiding idioms, etc.)

Content instruction for ELs: See SIOP, QTEL, and GLAD

DLL: Dual Language Learner

EL (ELL): English Learner – a person who is in the process of acquiring English and has a primary language other than English

ELD: English Language Development (course)

ELP: English Language Proficiency

Emergent Bilingual: another term for a second language learner

ESOL or ESL: English to Speakers of Other Languages. Programs or course of study to teach social and academic language skills


GLAD: Guided Language Acquisition Design

HLS: Home Language Survey. Form required by the US federal government. All families must complete the form when student is enrolled.

I + O + I (Input + Output + Interaction): Second language learners need input (comprehensible, developmentally appropriate, accurate and redundant; learn from others & teacher), output (functional, communicative & comprehensible; students produce more language than the teacher; small groups, pairs, writing), & interaction (active role, give feedback in small groups / pairs, participatory activities, hands-on)

L1: Primary language or home language

L2: Second language

LEP: Limited English Proficient. Used in IDEA and ESEA but “deficit model” language. Not in ESSA.

LTEL: Long-term English Learner (student); more than 5 years

MEP: Migrant Education Programs. Federal Funds under Title 1 for educational and supportive services for children who are migratory agricultural workers. Refugees may qualify.

Newcomer: Students who have lived in the U.S. for less than a year.


QTEL: Quality Teaching for English Learners

SIOP: Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol

SIFE: Students with Interrupted Formal Education

Scaffolds / Scaffolding Instruction: Supports to assist students in learning language and content including linking to background knowledge, increasing comprehensible input and language output, increasing interaction, stimulating higher order thinking

Sheltered Instruction: students study discipline (e.g. Mathematics) in English and teacher adjusts the language demands to make content comprehensible (e.g. adapt language of texts or tasks, scaffold instruction, etc.)

TESOL: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages – a national and professional association

TPR: Total Physical Response – a language learning approach based on the relationship between language and its physical representation or execution

WIDA: A consortium of 37 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands dedicated to the design and implementation of high standards and equitable educational opportunities for English Learners. Produces annual ACCESS test. (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners).

WIDA W-APT: An adaptive test that can gauge students’ proficiency up to and beyond Level 5 of the WIDA ELP Standards. Test is administered for students new to the SDP.

Legal Protections

Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974: Civil rights statue prohibits states from denying equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex or national origin. State may not deny equal educational opportunity by the failure of an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in instructional program.

Lau v. Nichols: Class action suit by parents of non-English-proficient students in San Francisco. Supreme Court ruled that identical education does not constitute equal education under the Civil Right Act of 1964.

Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Bilingual Education Act, Title VII of ESEA recognizes unique educational disadvantages face by students who are not proficient in English. Enacted in 1968, the Act established a federal policy to assist educational agencies to serve students by authorizing funding to support those efforts. Also supports professional development and research. Reauthorized in 1994 to give increased state role and for funding for services through Title 1.

Every Student Succeed Act (2016): States may apply for two options regarding standardized testing: (1) include ELs when they have been in the US one year, or (2) first year, scores don’t count towards a school’s rating (take both ELA and math), (2) second year, state includes EL’s results in reading & math using some measure of growth, and (3) third year, proficiency scores of included. Accountability shifts from Title III to Title I – making accountability of ELs a priority in ALL schools, not just schools with a significant EL population. More attention to dual identified students (EL / IEP), long term ELs and exited ELs (from two to four years).

Y.S. v. School District of Philadelphia (1985): ELs must have access to all services offered to other students in addition to ESOL classes. Schools must provide supports where needed so students may access all opportunities. This includes special admit schools, counseling, gifted education, and extracurricular activities. Communication with families must be in their first language. The LeGare (1994) consent decree ensures equal access to all school programs for students with disabilities and ELs.