The process of identifying ELL students involves collecting and analyzing data to determine whether or not a student is limited English proficient (LEP) and entitled to services through a language instruction program. On this page, we will walk you through the initial steps as outlined on the LIEP Processes and Procedures Flowchart (updated 5.15).
Brief Overview of the Identification Process
Required Home Language Survey
Screening for potential English learners is part of the district registration process. All students are to complete a Home Language Survey (from TransACT) upon enrollment in a district. This is a one-time event. The Iowa Department of Education provides a state-wide subscription to TransACT so that all accredited public and non-public districts can access these resources free of charge.
Once the HLS has been completed, a designated staff member reviews the responses. If a language other than English is in the child’s background, the student is considered a potential English learner and the district proceeds with the required screening process. All completed HLS must be filed in the student’s permanent folder.
Home Language Survey
Screening for potential English learners is part of the district registration process. All students are to complete a Home Language Survey (HLS IA) upon enrollment in a district. This is a one-time event. Current guidance from the Iowa Department of Education states that only Form IA from TransACT is approved for use in Iowa districts. The Iowa Department of Education provides a state-wide subscription to TransACT so that all accredited public and non-public districts can access these resources free of charge.
Once the HLS has been completed, a designated staff member reviews the responses. If a language other than English is in the child’s background, the student is considered a potential ELL student. The district then proceeds to the next step of the screening process. All completed HLS must be filed in the student’s permanent folder.
Administration of Identification/ Placement Screening Assessments
The next step in determining eligibility for English language instruction services is the administration of an identification/placement screening assessment. This step must be completed within the first 30 days of enrollment. Districts are required to administer the ELPA21 Dynamic Screener. If a student is transferring from another district, utilize the Identification of ELs: Approved Assessment Procedures for Transfer Students to determine screening requirements for your (or your student’s) specific situation.
Training is required for test administrators. This Trainings For Schools Document will provide you with directions on statewide training. Please visit the Iowa Department of Education ELPA21 Screener page and the ELPA21 Iowa Portal for extended details.
Determination of Eligibility
If the student is not proficient on the ELPA21 screen, the student is eligible for services. The district will progress with entering this information into the Student Information System and an initial placement is made in the Language Instruction Educational Program (LIEP). The district must notify parents of the placement recommendation. A reminder of federal guidance; information provided to parents “shall be provided in an understandable and informative format and, to the extent practical, in a language, the parents can understand.”
Parent notification forms are available from TransACT. There is an “Iowa English Learner” folder which contains the state-required documents for program communication with parents. If it is determined that the student is proficient in English, the student is placed in the mainstream instructional program without additional language support services.
Parents do have the right to decline services. If this is the case, it is required that this decision is recorded in writing using the required TransACT forms.
Assessing Academic Skills & Other Data
It is recommended that the district collect additional data when designing the student’s schedule. Critical data to inform these decisions include details on their prior schooling, prior identification as EL, services provided in the previous district, most recent language proficiency test scores, the literacy level in the first language and English as well as prior access to schooling. Best practice would also include a family and student interview to learn more about the student such as insight into their development, strengths, challenges, interests, preferences, goals and any other important details.
It is recommended that staff assess the student’s literacy skills in both English and the native language (where possible). This provides valuable insight into the student’s language and literacy development which can inform instructional and programming decisions. Likewise, assessments in math and other content areas can be windows to the student’s educational history and assist with instructional decisions.