stringent exit criteria, which means they are providing services to many students with English language difficulties and retaining them in the classification until they are ready to function without specialized language and instructional support services. If Title III funding is going to be based on the counts provided by the states, it is important to understand the policies, processes, and practices that lead to these counts and the ways that the policies, processes, and practices differ across the states.

In this chapter, we compare the processes used by the states to classify students as ELL and therefore eligible for Title III services. After first commenting on the panel’s approach to obtaining the information, we discuss states’ procedures for initially classifying a student as an ELL. We then discuss states’ procedures for reclassifying students as “formerly English language learners” and exiting them from the ELL category and its attendant specialized services. In the final section of the chapter we discuss the reporting mechanisms under which the data on ELL students are gathered, assembled, forwarded, and maintained and the effects of those mechanisms.

The committee relied on existing sources for information about state policies, practices, and criteria. The sources included several recent large-scale efforts to gather information on states’ procedures for identifying ELL students:

  • extensive information by Bailey and Kelly (2010) on home language surveys;

  • data from Wolf et al. (2008) on state (including the District of Columbia) policies, procedures, and criteria for the 2006-2007 school year;

  • an in-depth study by Ragan and Lesaux (2006) of the procedures in place during the 2004-2005 school year in 10 states and 10 school districts with high enrollments of ELL students;1 and

  • a study by Porta and Vega (2007) about states’ procedures and their ELP tests.

These studies provided a snapshot of policies and practices prior to 2008-2009. For information about policies, procedures, and criteria in place in 2008-2009, the panel held focused reviews and discussions with officials in seven states: California, Colorado, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington, all of which have high ELL student enrollments. In addition, we conducted a survey of state Title III administrators to update the information about the assessments their states use.


The states of California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Georgia, and New Jersey (listed in order by size of ELL student enrollment) and the districts of Los Angeles, New York City, Dade County, Chicago, Houston, Santa Ana, San Diego, Long Beach (CA), Clark County (NV), and Broward County (FL).

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