English Language Learners

Last Updated: 2/4/2019 3:53 PM


The primary goal of Pike Township's English Language Learners Program is to raise the level of English proficiency of all students of limited English proficiency (also called English Language Learners or ELLs) to that of native English speakers at their respective grade levels. The immediate goal is to improve basic communication skills in English for English learner students. The critical goals are to assist ELLs in acquiring academic language so that they can be successful in all academic areas, improving students’ social adjustment and cross-cultural understanding, and, ultimately, exiting from the English Language Learners program.

English language learners, their families, and building personnel should be aware that there are two different levels of language proficiency. The first involves basic interpersonal communication skills used in everyday, face-to-face situations.  Fluency in these skills often takes about two to three years to develop. The second level, cognitive academic language proficiency, involves literacy and skill in the use of academic language and of learning strategies in English. These skills can take some students six to eight years to develop.  Without fluency at both skill levels, English language learners cannot succeed in school without special support from classroom teachers, ELL specialists, and other support staff.


Research and experience have indicated that it is best to place incoming English language learners with peers who are the same age/grade level. There may be exceptions to the above recommendation, as in the case of students whose education has been interrupted. Grade placement must always be considered carefully, because the student will be greatly influenced by his/her peers.


The MSD of Pike Township employs certified, preferably English as a Second Language-endorsed teachers to provide direct ELL instruction, coaching and services in the program. The Director of Curriculum and Programs along with the Academic Support Specialist oversee the ELL program. The Academic Support Specialist, English learner teachers and instructional coaches are responsible for providing professional development to teachers and other staff who teach and support ELL students in general education classrooms. Professional development is offered through in-services, local, state, and national conferences, book studies, instructional coaching and through written communication such as newsletters, emails, and district and Indiana Department of Education guidance documents.

Pike Township employs bilingual Spanish-English interpreters to assist students, teachers, and families with enrollment, access to services, conferences, and other communications between family and school. As needed, Pike Township contracts with interpreters of other languages via phone or in-person to meet the diverse language needs of the school district.

In compliance with the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) memo issued in 1970 to all school districts, the MSD of Pike Township provides an equal education opportunity to English language learners. In addition, English learner students enrolled in M.S.D. of Pike Township schools have equal access to the full range of district programs, including special education, Title I, high ability programs, and nonacademic and extra-curricular programs. WIDA English Language Development Standards and Frameworks are used to design instruction, learning activities, and assessments for ELLs. Direct and supportive instruction is provided on basic interpersonal communication skills, development of academic language proficiency, learning strategies, listening, speaking, reading, and writing in content areas so that grade level standards can be accessed and mastered. Instruction to English learners is provided by highly-trained and qualified staff which includes ELL teachers, instructional coaches, specialists, Title I teachers, classroom teachers, teacher assistants. Supportive services and tutoring is also provided by parent and community volunteers under supervision of M.S.D. of Pike Township staff.

All educational personnel must assume responsibility for the education of English learner students. The amount and time of direct ELL instructional services are based on individual student needs and grade level (elementary, middle, high school).  Research indicates that students who have a higher degree of oral proficiency but are lacking in academic language skills still require English language development and support due to increasing academic demands. When small group instruction occurs, students will be grouped by similar age, grade, and skill levels. This structure provides stronger language learning than one-on-one instruction because it facilitates real, two-way, communication.

The ELL students’ schedules are created in collaboration with classroom teachers, ELL teachers, specialists, and other building personnel. In elementary schools, ELL services could include push-in or pull-out services, sheltered instruction, structured immersion, and/or a Newcomers Structured Immersion self-contained first grade classroom. In middle schools, ELL services could include push-in or pull-out services, sheltered instruction, ELL courses, or Newcomers Structured Immersion Program.  Students in middle and high school also have the option to utilize ELL resource classes for help with assignments, assessments, and projects in other content areas.

The Newcomers Structured Immersion Program is designed to support students who are in the earliest stages of language development (Levels 1 and 2). These programs are offered in first grade at Central Elementary, College Park Elementary, Deer Run Elementary, Eastbrook Elementary, and Guion Creek Elementary Schools.  Guion Creek Middle School, Lincoln Middle School and Pike High School are offered ELL courses and Newcomers classes. In high school, students are assigned to ELL for one period per day or they too can participate in the Newcomer’s Program. In addition, secondary ELL staff are available for an academic resource period to support the heavy academic demands the students must meet to learn English and Indiana Academic Standards in content areas.  High school ELL students receive one English credit per semester for ELL. Indiana education regulations state that students may count no more than four credits in ELL toward graduation, and these may be applied to either English credit or foreign language credit. Although ELL students are allowed only four semesters of ELL course credit, ELL staff, teachers, and other support staff take steps to provide support within these regulations to all students who need it.


In accordance with the Every Student Succeeds Act, English Language Learners must take ILEARN and may be given state-specific accommodations. High School students must pass required exams, complete a graduation pathway, or obtain a waiver at the end of their senior year in order to graduate. All ELL students are also required to participate in WIDA ACCESS testing each year. WIDA ACCESS measures language acquisition and the overall, composite score determines a student’s limited English proficiency (LEP) level.  Once a student scores a level 5, they are considered fully English proficient (FEP), they are no longer required to participate in annual WIDA ACCESS testing, and they are exited from ELL services. Regarding NWEA testing, all ELL students in grades K-8 will participate with appropriate accommodations.


Data from WIDA ACCESS and classroom teacher/ELL staff input are used to determine whether ELL students should continue or exit from the ELL program completely.  Students who attain an English Proficiency Level of 5 on the WIDA ACCESS test may still need language development services and instructional supports to master grade level content and standards.

  • Language Proficiency Tests (WIDA ACCESS) are administered by a certified teacher.
  • Scores required for exit:
    • Attain level 5 overall proficiency on WIDA ACCESS
    • Students successfully complete a two-year formal monitoring period.
  • The final decision on exiting a student will be made in collaboration with the school administrator or designee, ELL teacher, classroom teacher, instructional coach (elementary/middle school).
  • All of the above procedures will be documented and kept with the ELL teacher, or instructional coach. Scores and final exiting decisions will also appear in the student’s permanent file.

NOTE:  The Indiana Department of Education does not recommend exiting students (reclassifying as Fluent English Proficiency - FEP) before the fourth grade.


Students’ success at school is enhanced by family engagement in children’s education. School staffs implement the following strategies for effective partnerships that foster family engagement in English learner students’ education:

  • Provide Spanish and other language interpreters as needed to foster better two-way communication between home and school
  • Provide notification to parents/guardians of a student’s placement into ELL programs or services within one month of the beginning of the school year or within two weeks of enrollment if it is after the beginning of the school year.  This is in compliance with federal Title III regulations.
  • Meet with parents/guardians of English learner students with the assistance of an interpreter, as needed for various meetings and events such as:
    • Back-to-School Night
    • Parent Teacher Conferences
    • Annual Case Conferences/Reviews
    • Reading/Math Nights
    • Other school events and meetings
  • Provide written communication in a language that is understandable by families whenever possible.  If translation isn’t feasible in some language, provide a contracted interpreter to notify the parent of the contents of the written communication.
  • ELL staff, interpreters, instructional coaches will act as a liaison between the home and school. Specifically, interpreters assist with enrollment, written and oral communication between home and school, and emergency situations involving students. 

The MSD of Pike Townships actively seeks to engage families and the community in the education of all of our students. Families and the Pike community are great assets and play a huge role in the success of students in our schools. Please contact Tracy Swinton with any questions you may have regarding ELL services.