DATE: June 30, 2017
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Steven R. Staples, Superintendent of Public Instruction

Entrance Procedures and Recommended Entrance Criteria for Identifying English Learners

Superintendent’s Memo 168-17, released on June 9, 2017, announced that Virginia will use an overall proficiency score of 4.4 as the ACCESS for ELLS® 2.0 English Language Proficiency (ELP) Assessment exit criterion for the 2016-2017 assessment year.  The purpose of this memorandum is to communicate standardized entrance procedures for English Learner (EL) identification as required under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) and to provide recommended entrance criteria for EL identification.

Entrance Procedures

Screening Identification

The English Learner ToolkitThis link takes you out of the Virginia Department of Education website created by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) states that LEAs must accurately identify EL students in a timely manner.  The USED Office for Civil Rights in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice has approved the following questions to demonstrate minimal compliance with the requirement to identify possible EL students in need of language assistance:

These identifying questions must be included on registration documents or on a separate home language survey provided to all students enrolling in a Virginia public school. If a parent or guardian responds with any language other than English for one or more questions, then the student should be progressed to the language screening process. School divisions must develop a written protocol to ensure that incoming ELs are identified, screened, and placed in appropriate programs and services within thirty days of enrollment, and must ensure that all ELs enrolling in a school division are identified in a consistent manner.

Screening Process

Designated division personnel should review registration and/or home language survey documents submitted to the school for educational information, language, and ELP assessment scores to determine the next step. If a current ACCESS for ELLS® 2.0 score (within one year of testing) is provided, the score can be used to determine the student’s EL status and the services to be provided. If a current ACCESS for ELLS® 2.0 score is not provided, designated personnel should administer a World-Class Instructional Design Assessment (WIDA) screening tool to determine the student’s English proficiency level. For the 2017-2018 school year, school divisions may select from the following WIDA screening tools:

WIDA recommends that school divisions adopt the WIDA Screener, as scores on this screener are aligned on the same score scale as the ACCESS for ELLS® 2.0. The new score scale does not apply to the WIDA MODEL or the W-APT. School divisions should be aware that as of August 31, 2017, the W-APT grades 1-12 will no longer be available from WIDA; however, the Kindergarten W-APT will remain available on the WIDA website.

Parent Notification

Within thirty days of identification, the school division must provide written notification to the parents of the identified EL, to include information about the student’s EL status and the services to be provided. Notification should be provided to parents in their native language or a language they understand.

Entrance Criteria

The Department recommends the criteria below for EL identification. The recommendations may be adjusted if changes are made to the ACCESS for ELLS® 2.0 exit criterion following the upcoming review of data from the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 assessment years to determine long-term exit criteria using the new ACCESS for ELLS® 2.0 scale. Please note that Virginia will continue to recognizeWIDA Performance Definitions This link takes you out of the Virginia Department of Education website.

Grade Screening Tool Domains Levels indicating Student is an EL
Rising Kindergarten *Kindergarten W-APT Listening and Speaking Oral raw score less than 21 
1st semester
*Kindergarten W-APT Listening and Speaking Oral raw score less than 28 
2nd semester
*Kindergarten W-APT Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing Listening & Speaking Less than 28
OR Reading less than 14
ORWriting less than 17
1st  semester
WIDA MODEL Listening and Speaking Oral Language Level less than 5.0  
2nd semester
WIDA MODEL Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing Overall less than 5.0 
Grade 1  - 12 W-APT or WIDA MODEL Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing Overall less than 5.0  
Grade 1  - 12 WIDA Screener (online and paper) Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing Overall less than 4.5**

*The Kindergarten W-APT provides a specific raw score that cannot be mapped to a specific Proficiency Level using the WIDA ELP scale.
**The WIDA Screener provides an overall score to the nearest 0.5.

Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities

On a case-by-case basis where appropriate documentation exists, students with disabilities may be provided with accommodations on the WIDA Screener, W-APT, or WIDA MODEL. Currently there is no alternate screening tool for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The IEP team should determine if the student should be administered a screening tool with accommodations for EL identification.      

If you have questions, please contact the student assessment staff at or (804) 225-2102 or Lynn Sodat, Director, Office of Program Administration and Accountability, at or (804) 225-2870.