English Language Learners - State Profile

English Language Learners - State Profile - Illinois

November 2014

Unless otherwise noted, all information in this resource was gathered from state statutes only and does not include policies in state-level guidance documents or arising from court orders.

Students: Identification, Program Approach, Standards, Assets, Exit, PreK
Percentage and number of ELL students (2011-2012) 8.2 percent
How is an "English language learner" defined in state policy?
“English learner” means any student in preK through grade 12, whose home language background is a language other than English and whose proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding English is not yet sufficient to provide the student with:
  • The ability to meet the state's proficient level of achievement on state assessments;
  • The ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction is English; or
  • The opportunity to participate fully in the school setting.
Terms “limited English proficient student” and “students with limited English proficiency,” as used in state law, are understood to be “English learners.”
What methods are used to identify English language learners?
School districts are required to administer, as part of the enrollment process, a home language survey to each student in preK-12 who is entering the district's schools or any of the district's preschool programs for the first time. The survey must include at least the following questions, and the student must be identified as having a language background other than English if the answer to either question is yes:
  • Whether a language other than English is spoken in the student's home and, if so, which language; and
  • Whether the student speaks a language other than English and, if so, which language.
The district is required to screen the English language proficiency of students identified through the home language survey as having a language background other than English by using the prescribed screening instrument applicable to the student's grade level or the prescribed screening procedures identified by the preschool program.

The prescribed screening instrument does not need to be administered to a student who, in his or her previous school district:
  • Has been screened and identified as English language proficient; or
  • Has met the State exit requirements; or
  • Has met all of the following criteria:
    • Resides in a home where a language other than English is spoken, and
    • Has not been screened or identified as an ELL, and
    • Has been enrolled in the general program of instruction in the school he or she has previously attended, and
    • Has been performing at or above grade level as evidenced by having met or exceeded the Illinois Learning Standards in reading and math on the student's most recent State assessment or, for students for whom State assessment scores are not available, a nationally normed standardized test, provided that either assessment was not administered with accommodations for ELLs.
Students whose scores are identified as not “proficient” as defined by the state superintendent of education are considered to be ELLs. For preschool programs using a screening procedure other than an established assessment tool where “proficiency” is defined as part of the instrument, “proficiency” is the point at which performance identifies a child as proficient in English, as set forth in the program's proposed screening process. For any preschool student who scores at the “proficient” level, the school district may consider additional indicators such as teachers' evaluations of performance, samples of a student's work, or information received from family members and school personnel in order to determine whether the student's proficiency in English is limited and the student is eligible for services.

The parent or guardian of any child resident in a school district who has not been identified as an English learner may request the district to determine whether the child should be considered for placement in a bilingual education program, and the school district must make that determination upon request, using the process described above.
Which program approaches does state policy authorize?
K-12 requirements
In schools with 19 or fewer ELLs of any one language classification, the school district must conduct an student language assessment with each ELL to determine each student's need for home language instruction and the district may provide a transitional bilingual program (TBE) in the students' common language. If the district decides not to provide a TBE, the district must provide a locally determined transitional language instruction program.

In schools with 20 or more ELLs with the same language classification, the school district must establish a TBE program for each language. Schools must conduct a further assessment of those students to determine placement in either a full-time or a part-time program.

Preschool requirements
In school district preschool programs with 20 or more ELLs of any single language in the same school or facility the school district must establish a TBE program for each language. In preschool programs with 19 or fewer ELLs of any one language the school district must conduct individual language assessments for each student to determine each student's need for home language instruction and the district may provide a TBE program in the students' languages. If the district decides not to provide a TBE program, the district must provide another locally determined transitional language instruction program. 

Transitional bilingual education (TBE) programs
Full-time TBE programs must consist of at least the following components:
  • Instruction in subjects that are either required by law or by the student's school district, to be given in the student's home language and in English; core subjects such as math, science and social studies must be offered in the student's home language, except as otherwise provided in state regulation;
  • Instruction in the language arts in the student's home language;
  • Instruction in English as a second language, which must align to WIDA standards; and
  • Instruction in the history and culture of the country, territory, or geographic area that is the native land of the students or of their parents and in the history and culture of the U.S.
Programs may also include other services or activities such as counseling, tutorial assistance, learning settings, or special instructional resources that will assist ELLs in meeting the Illinois Learning Standards and for preschool programs, the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards.
Under certain conditions students may attend a part-time program, or students previously in a full-time program may be placed in a part-time program. A part-time program must consist of components of a full-time program that are selected for a particular student based upon an assessment of the student's educational needs. Each student's part-time program must provide daily instruction in English and in the student's home language as determined by the student's needs.

Transitional education programs
Specific requirements for transitional programs:
  • The level of a student's proficiency in English will determine the structure of the student's instructional program.
  • A transitional program of instruction must include instruction or other assistance in the student's home language to the extent necessary to enable the student to keep pace with his or her age or grade peers in achievement in the core academic content areas.
  • A transitional program of instruction may include, but is not limited to, the following components:
    • Instruction in ESL, which must align to WIDA standards;
    • Language arts in the students' home language; and
    • Instruction in the history and culture of the country, territory, or geographic area that is the native land of the students or of their parents and in the history and culture of the United States.
Unique policy levers to promote parent engagement
Each school district is required to establish a parent advisory committee that gives parents the opportunity to express their views and ensures that the programs are planned, operated, and evaluated in consultation with parents of ELLs. The majority of committee membership must be parents of students in transitional bilingual education programs but must also include transitional bilingual education teachers, counselors, and representatives from community groups.
Does state make available state seal of biliteracy? If so, is district awarding of seal voluntary or mandatory for eligible students? Yes - offering voluntary
What measures do schools use to reclassify students as English proficient?
School districts must annually assess the English language proficiency, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, of all ELLs in kindergarten and grades 1-12 using the English language proficiency assessment prescribed by the state superintendent of education. The state superintendent is required to determine and post on the state board of education's website the composite score and the literacy score that will be used to determine whether a student is identified as “proficient”. Each student whose score on the English language proficiency assessment is identified as “proficient” must exit the program of bilingual education services and will no longer be identified as an ELL. Students who are not enrolled in a bilingual education program but who have been identified as ELLs are required to participate in the assessment each year until achieving a “proficient” score.
Are state-funded pre-kindergarten programs required to provide ELL instruction? Yes
Has the state adopted the English language development standards put forth by World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA)? Yes
Type of funding Reimbursement 
Funding per student Funding per student depends on a district's claims for reimbursement. Additionally, if the money appropriated by the General Assembly is insufficient, it shall be apportioned on the basis of the claims approved.
How is funding distributed? Funding is allocated outside of the state's primary funding formula. 
Teaching Quality
What ELL training, if any, is required of general classroom teachers?
Are ELL-only instructors required to hold a specialist certification or endorsement? Yes. Bilingual education and teachers of English as a Second Language programs must hold respective license endorsements.
Unique Characteristics
Unique characteristics
Nonresident students. A school district may allow nonresident ELLs to attend its transitional bilingual program. The student's tuition will be paid by the student's district of residence. School districts may combine efforts to provide any transitional bilingual education progroams required or permitted by law.
Advisory council. Members of the Advisory Council on Bilingual Education are appointed by the state superintendent of education and selected for their experience in or knowledge of the bilingual education programs. The Council advises the state superintendent on policy and rules pertaining to bilingual education. 

Language acquisition services for certain students exiting the program. Although federal law requires school districts to provide language support services to students after exiting an ELL program, state law allows school districts to discontinue services to students who have been in the transitional bilingual education (TBE) or transitional program of instruction (TPI) for three consecutive years. When discontinuing TBE or TPI program services for students who have not achieved English proficiency, the district must submit a plan to the state superintendent that describes how it will meet its obligations under federal law. The plan must include at least:
  • The process and criteria the district will use to determine when to exit eligible students from the TBE or TPI program (e.g., after a certain amount of time in the program, once a prescribed academic or proficiency level is achieved);
  • The language acquisition services and methods to be provided, including how the services and methods differ from the general program of instruction in content, instructional goals, and the use of English and home language instruction;
  • How the program will meet the educational needs of the students and build on their academic strengths;
  • How the program will specifically help the students learn English and meet academic achievement standards for grade promotion and graduation;
  • The names and qualifications of the staff who will implement the program; and
  • How sufficient resources, including equipment and instructional materials, will be made available to support the program.
Student-Teacher Ratio. The student-teacher ratio in the ESL programs must not exceed 90 percent of the average student-teacher ratio in general education classes for the same grades in the same school. Additional students may be placed into bilingual classes during the course of a school year but no bilingual classroom may have a student-teacher ratio greater than the average for general education classes in the same grade and school. These requirements do not apply to preschool programs with bilingual education services, but they must meet the requirements of the Early Childhood Block Grant.

Program integration. ELLs must participate fully with their English-speaking classmates in classes where language is not essential to an understanding of the subject matter, including art, music, and physical education.

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