The English Language Learner KnowledgeBase for Teachers

The English Language Learner (ELL) KnowledgeBase for Teachers is an online resource supporting educators responsible for implementing programs for ELL students. It offers resources related to teaching ELL students based on Office for Civil Rights and the No Child Left Behind Act requirements.

This KnowledgeBase is currently being updated to reflect recent changes under federal law. The current version is provided for your reference as much of the information may still be relevant.

Element 1: Understand the Law

Purpose: Districts are required to take affirmative steps to address the language development of English language learners (ELLs) where the inability to speak and understand the English language prevents the students from effective participation in the district's regular education program. Element 1 addresses the legal requirements related to ELL students. Besides school leaders and staff members, these requirements must be understood by the entire school community.

Activity 1: Become Familiar with the Legal Aspects and Precedents

Activity 2: Review the No Child Left Behind Act

Task 3: Investigate Instructional Strategies

Guideline: All bilingual program models use the student's home language and English for instruction. These programs are implemented most easily in districts with a large number of students from the same language background. Students in bilingual programs are grouped according to their first language and teachers must be proficient in English and the students' home language.

Effective Instructional Practices

This resource is excerpted from, "The Education of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students: Effective Instructional Practices," and is authored by Dr. Eugene E. Garcia.


Everything ESL is a collection of K-12 lesson plans geared to TESOL's ESL standards. It provides teaching tips, resource links, and discussions for teachers of ELL students.

Framework for Alternative Language Program

An effective alternative language program requires a holistic effort addressing the needs of students, their families, and the community while blending it into the fabric of the whole school district. This framework was compiled through interviews with program administrators who have been associated with starting and/or enhancing alternative language programs.

Framework for Rural Schools

Rural school districts often face unique needs in setting up programs to serve the linguistic and cultural needs of ELL students. This framework offers "top of the mind" ideas or suggestions helpful to school administrators starting a program. The topics are grouped into two general areas, those relating to district and school, and those addressing the home front. This framework was compiled through interviews with program administrators who have started ELL programs in rural school districts.

Multicultural Curriculum

The Palm Beach County School District's multicultural curriculum focuses on the development of multicultural curriculum topics/units, as well the delivery of professional development and resources for educators, students, and the community. While specific to the Florida Sunshine State Standards and correlated to Palm Beach County adopted textbooks, it serves as an example for teachers instructing ELL students.

Strategies for ELL Students

This document from the Florida Department of Education's Office of School Improvement provides characteristics of exemplary ELL programs, as well as strategies for ensuring a successful program. It may be a useful tool for district staff members assigned the responsibility for developing alternative language programs.

CREDE-Developed Program for Elementary Education

As communities deal with changing demographics, such change impacts the local school district as well. To understand what proactive school leaders did to promote interethnic relations, the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence (CREDE) conducted a study to identify examples of effective practices. The summarized content is useful for district and school leadership as they deal with blending students of diverse cultures into a compatible school community.

Center for Applied Linguistics

The Center for Applied Linguistics' website provides "a comprehensive range of research-based information, tools, and resources related to language and culture."

English Language Learners: Boosting Academic Achievement

This resource is a policy brief from the American Educational Research Association outlining research-based strategies for effectively teaching literacy to the diverse group of English language learners.

Internet TESL Journal

This link is to the former Internet TESL Journal for teachers of English as a second language. Though no longer published, its past issues are available for access.

National Association for Bilingual Education

As noted at its website, "the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) is the only national professional organization devoted to representing Bilingual Learners and Bilingual Education professionals. NABE has affiliates in 25 states which collectively represent more than 20,000 members that include bilingual and English language learner (ELL) teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, administrators, professors, advocates, researchers, and policy makers."

Sheltered English Instruction

The Education Alliance's Teaching Diverse Learners website provides an overview of the sheltered English instruction concept through a series of six questions and answers.

Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model is a research-based approach to sheltered instruction addressing the academic needs of English language learners. This resource from the Center for Applied Linguistics provides an overview of the model and its applicability in the classroom.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

As noted at its website, "Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL), is a global association for English language teaching professionals. Representing a multifaceted academic discipline and profession, TESOL offers members serial publications, books, and electronic resources on current issues, ideas, and opportunities in the field of English language teaching."

Element 2: Implement the English Language Learner Program

Purpose: School districts have broad discretion in selecting appropriate language programs, but they should consider three general questions when making a decision.

  • Is there a need to provide English language learner (ELL) services?
  • Will the ELL program meet the educational needs of ELL students effectively ?
  • Is the program approach backed by scientifically based research?

The program chosen should be considered sound by experts in the field. If a district is using a different approach, it must show it is considered a legitimate experimental strategy.

Activity 1: Investigate Approaches to English Language Learner Programs

Activity 2: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Activity 3: Develop an English Language Learner Program

Element 3: Communicate With and Involve Parents

Purpose: School districts have multiple obligations under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requirements. Under Title III, schools receiving such funds are to ensure timely and effective notification to parents of ELL students and extend a means for them to be involved with their child's education. The OCR requirements specify districts do so in a way that ensures meaningful access to ELL students and their parents. Accordingly, schools must develop effective methods of involving parents of ELL students in their child's education. In fulfilling these responsibilities, districts should develop procedures for providing the parents of ELL students with the same information provided to the parents of their non-ELL peers in a language-appropriate manner.

Activity 1: Communicate with Parents Using Language-Appropriate Methods

Activity 2: Develop and Implement a Parent Involvement Program

Element 4: Identify and Assess Students

Purpose: A district should have procedures in place for identifying English language learner (ELL) students and assessing their English proficiency. Such procedures should involve parents in making the final determination of whether their child is placed in the district's ELL program. Parents deciding not to have their child or children participate must sign a participation waiver.

Activity 1: Develop Appropriate Student Identification and Assessment Policies

Activity 2: Identify Students Whose Primary Home Language is Other Than English (PHLOTE)

Activity 3: Ensure Assessment of Students

Element 5: Coordinate the English Language Learner Program with Other Programs

Purpose: As noted at the National Clearinghouse for English Language Aquisition (NCELA), "School districts are to provide alternative language instruction programs to children with limited English proficiency to help them develop their English language skills and meet the same state academic content and student achievement standards all students are expected to meet.

In doing so, school districts have broad discretion in selecting appropriate language programs, but should consider the following when developing their program.

  • Is there a need to provide alternative language services?
  • Will the alternative language program effectively meet the educational needs of ELL students?
  • Language instruction curricula used to teach ELL children are to be tied to scientifically-based research and demonstrated to be effective.
  • Provided by teachers certified as English language proficient.
  • Parents must be notified as to why their child is being placed in the program and have the right to have their child removed from the program."

Activity 1: Coordinate the English Language Learner Program with Other Programs

Activity 2: Conduct Program Evaluation

Element 6: Exit Students and Monitor Academic Progress

Purpose: A district should establish criteria to determine when English language learner (ELL) students qualify for exiting from the program. The exit criteria should be based on objective standards that ensure ELL students will be able to participate meaningfully and successfully in the district's regular education program.

Activity 1: Develop Appropriate Exit Policies and Procedures for the English Language Learner Program

Activity 2: Exit Students

Element 7: Provide Professional Learning

Purpose: In fulfilling the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Office for Civil Rights, staff development must occur to ensure ELL students progress academically and be afforded equal educational opportunity. This includes professional learning in the following areas:

  • processes/policies for the identification and exit of ELL students for intake staff members and classroom teachers,
  • implementation of the program model for ELL program staff members,
  • strategies for working with ELL students for content teachers, and
  • assessment process for translators and staff members who will assist in Special Education.

Activity 1: Understand Policies and Procedures for Professional Learning

Activity 2: Develop and Implement a Personal Professional Learning Plan