Federal and State Definitions of English Language Learners

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Washington State Definition of English Language Learner (WAC 392-160-005 – Definitions

A student who meets the following two conditions is eligible for the Transitional Bilingual Instructional/ELL Program:

  • The primary language of the student is other than English; and
  • The student's English skills are sufficiently lacking or absent as to delay learning.

Washington State defines “primary language” as the language most often used by a student (not necessarily by parents, guardians, or others) for communication in the student's place of residence or the language that the student first learned.

Federal Definition of English Language Learner  (ESEA Title IX, Sec. 9101(25)

The term “limited English proficient”, when used with respect to an individual, means an individual:

  • Who is aged 3 through 21;
  • Who is enrolled or preparing to enroll in an elementary school or secondary school;
  • Who was not born in the United States or whose native language is a language other than English;
  • Who is a Native American or Alaska Native, or a native resident of the outlying areas; and
  • who comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on the individual's level of English language proficiency; or
  • Who is migratory, whose native language is a language other than English, and who comes from an environment where a language other than English is dominant; and
  • Whose difficulties in speaking, reading, writing, or understanding the English language may be sufficient to deny the individual —
    • the ability to meet the State's proficient level of achievement on State assessments described in section 1111(b)(3);
    • the ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction is English; or
    • the opportunity to participate fully in society.
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