Center for Language and Early Child Development

English Language Learning

Access and Identification

 Identifying ELLs in Your District

How do you know if a student enrolling in your district is Limited English Proficient (LEP) (also called an English Language Learner (ELL)) and is eligible for language support services?

Follow these steps:

  1. Administer a Home Language Survey to ALL students (Preschool - Grade 12) newly registering in your district. Sample Home Language Surveys are available on the ISBE website in English and forty other languages.
  2. Assess the English language proficiency of all students whose parents answered "yes" to one or both of the Home Language Survey questions, "Is a language other than English spoken in the home?' and "Does the student speak a language other than English?"
  3. If the student is identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP), provide services as required based on the individual student's needs.
  4. Annually report identified LEP students on the Student Information System (SIS).

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 Screening for English Language Proficiency & Screeners

 2015-2016 ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 (10/1/15) updated

  • 2016 ACCESS for ELLs and Alternate ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Calendar PDF format (7/31/15)
  • For 2015-16, the regular ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 testing window will be from January 11, 2016, to February 12, 2016.
  • School Year 2015-16 will be the first operational year for ACCESS for ELLs 2.0. It will be administered primarily via computer. A paper version of ACCESS will be available for accommodated administrations and/or where local circumstances make online testing impractical at this time. The following portions of ACCESS will continue to be paper-only:
  • Kindergarten ACCESS
  • Alternate ACCESS
  • ACCESS Writing Test in grades 1-3
  • Important note – The speaking portion of ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 requires that a microphone be provided for each student. The microphone may be either a stand-alone unit or part of a headset.
  • ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Fall Webinarsnew
    Beginning September 23, 2015, WIDA will be conducting a series of webinars to help prepare school districts for this year’s ACCESS administration.
    Click here for announcements and resources about the transition to ACCESS for ELLs 2.0.
  • ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Updates - 2015 Bilingual Program Directors’ Meeting Presentation PDF format (9/15) new

  • Data Recognition Corp. (DRC), the new material vendor for ACCESS for ELLs 2.0, requested that schools and districts in Illinois that will be participating in the ACCESS 2.0 and ordering materials provide a Site File by Sept. 30, 2015.
    • The Site File identifies contact information for key staff who will facilitate the assessment.
    • ISBE will use the Student Information System (SIS) to collect this information and will transfer the Site File to DRC on Oct. 1, 2015.
    • DRC will create district accounts in its online administration management system called WIDA-AMS.
    • District coordinator(s) reported in the SIS Site File will be notified by email once those accounts are ready to use.
    • Schools and districts are recommended to view the SIS webinar “Planning for School Year 2016” showing the Site File setup and how to submit information.
  • What is WIDA-AMS?PDF format new
  • ISBE is no longer using paper forms for this process. For districts wanting to choose an alternate testing window for ACCESS 2.0, please check the SIS webinar that explains how to request alternate testing dates. No reason for the request needs to be entered, but if the number of waiver requests is very large, districts may be asked to provide additional information regarding their request.

  • W-APT Training for EL Screening – a new WIDA training module new

    There is a new training module in webinar format at for those who are interested in being trained to administer the W-APT for EL screening. The training for the annual ACCESS for ELLS assessment formerly was considered to be sufficient for the W-APT as well. That is no longer the case.

    • Now that the ACCESS 2.0 listening and speaking domains will be administered from an audio recording, a separate training module created specifically for the W-APT is more appropriate.
    • Those who have already passed the ACCESS for ELLs training do not need to retrain to administer the W-APT.
    • Anyone training for the first time to administer the W-APT should use the new module, which covers all four domains.
    • The new W-APT training module does not conclude with a quiz or award a certificate of completion. Also, completion of the new W-APT module is not tracked or recorded by either ISBE or WIDA.
    • Note that completing the new W-APT module does not qualify someone to administer ACCESS 2.0 for the annual state assessment. Training modules for ACCESS 2.0, both on paper and online, will be released soon.
    • Training to screen at the kindergarten level remains the same as in the past. If you have questions, contact ISBE at (866) 317-6034.
  • ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Overviewnew
  • FAQsupdated
  • Technology
  • Implementation Resources
  • WIDA-AMS Websitenew

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School districts must annually assess the English language proficiency, including aural comprehension (listening), speaking, reading, and writing skills, of ALL children of limited English-speaking ability in kindergarten and any of grades 1 through 12  (Section 14C-3 of the School Code) using the English language proficiency assessment prescribed by the State Superintendent of Education.
  1. Why is an annual assessment of English Language Proficiency required?

    An annual English Language Proficiency test is required under No Child Left Behind legislation passed in 2001.  NCLB indicates that all K-12 English language learners must be assessed annually for English proficiency growth (Title III) and academic progress (Title I). School districts receiving Title III grant resources will be held accountable under the Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs) provision of NCLB.  In addition,  the Illinois Administrative Code, Part 228, Section 228.15(e) and 228.25(c) outlines detailed information regarding the English language proficiency required in Illinois.

  2. What is ACCESS for ELLs?

    ACCESS for ELLs is a standards-based, criterion referenced English language proficiency test designed to measure English language learners' social and academic proficiency in English. It assesses social and instructional English as well as the language associated with language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies within the school context across the four language domains. The secure full-scale ACCESS for ELLs assessment will be distributed at no cost to public schools.
  3. What is the difference between ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT screener and MODEL? The W-APT and MODEL are modeled after the ACCESS for ELLs®, but their purposes differ in important ways.  The W-APT and MODEL are screening instruments designed to assess English language proficiency primarily to determine eligibility for and placement within an ELL program.  The ACCESS for ELLs is an annual assessment designed to assess student progress in achieving English language proficiency.  For more information on how these tests differ visit:

  4. Who needs to take ACCESS for ELLs?

    All public school districts are required to assess annually all identified English Language Learners (ELLs)/Limited English Proficient (LEP) students in grades K-12 using the ACCESS for ELLs assessment until the students test as English language proficient.  This includes all identified students whose parents have refused language support services.  All LEP students must be tested until they achieve the state prescribed minimum score to be considered English language proficient.

  5. What proficiency level score does a student have to obtain to be considered English language proficient?

    As of January 1, 2014, students who obtain an overall composite proficiency level of 5.0 as well as a reading proficiency level of 4.2 and a writing proficiency level of 4.2 on the annually administered state approved English language proficiency test, ACCESS for ELLs, are to be considered English language proficient.

    Districts with additional questions regarding the determination of English language proficiency are encouraged to call the Division of English Language Learning at 312-814-3850.

  6. Who can administer the ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT Screener, and WIDA MODEL assessment?

  7. How do I get trained to administer the ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT Screener, and WIDA MODEL?

    Please read the instructions below. This process is for educators that are not currently certified to administer ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT Screener or the MODEL

    Each school district in WIDA’s user account system now has a District Test Coordinator (DTC). The DTC’s roles include creating new WIDA training accounts for district staff and monitoring that district staff have completed WIDA training modules. If you need assistance with a WIDA account, contact WIDA Client Services, 866-276-7735,

    Once an educator successfully completes the quizzes to administer ACCESS for ELLs, W-APT Screener and the MODEL, it will take approximately 6-8 weeks for the record to appear on the Illinois Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS).

    Educators that have previously been certified do not need to be re-certified on an annual basis.

    Click Here for WIDA Training Account Password Reset Instructions.

  8. Are private schools required to give ACCESS for ELLs?

    The Local Educational Agency (LEA) is required to consult with private schools regarding Title III, Part A specifically to determine how their ELL/LEP students will be identified and served.  The LEA is responsible for assessing the English language proficiency of private school students and may be able to use Title III Part A funds to pay for initial LEP assessments for these students. (Please note: funds cannot supplant other federal, state and/or local funds.)

    Private schools are NOT required to use ACCESS for ELLs as recipients of Federal Title III program services. However, private schools seeking Title III program services, through their Local Educational Agency (LEA), must demonstrate that the English language proficiency of all students they report to their LEAs is assessed annually and that each student is limited English proficient. Private schools can accomplish this by using a WIDA ACCESS™ Placement Test (W-APT Screener or WIDA MODEL)* available free of charge at the WIDA website. Private school staff administering the screener must be trained to administer and score the W-APT Screener or WIDA MODEL.

    The secure ACCESS for ELLs is also currently available for private schools within the WIDA Consortium member states. Only private schools that agree to abide by confidentiality policies and security will be granted permission to order booklets at their own expense directly from MetriTech. Private schools interested in ordering materials should call Tim Boals at 608-267-1290.

  9. What is the procedure for the ACCESS/Alternate ACCESS administration when an EL Transfers in/out before or during the ACCESS testing window?

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 Academic Assessment Resources for ELLs 

 ACCESS for ELLs Assessment Archive

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