An English Language Learner, or ELL, is a student who speaks a language other than English at home and needs support learning English.
Identifying English Language Learners
All parents and guardians of newly enrolled students complete a Home Language Identification Survey about which language your child speaks at home.
If your responses show that your child speaks a language other than English at home, the school may give your child the New York State Identification Test for English Language Learners.
This test measures your child’s knowledge of English. If the test shows that your child would benefit from support learning English, your child will be identified as an English language learner.
All English Language Learners (ELLs) have a right to ELL programs and instruction.
Programs and Instruction
All ELLs receive English as a New Language (ENL) . Your child will be taught to read, write, and speak in English with support in your child's home language.
There are two types of bilingual education programs. In both programs, your child will learn reading, writing, and other classes in both English and in your child’s home language. Both programs include English as a New Language (ENL) instruction.
- Dual Language Bilingual Education (DLBE): The goal of this program is for your child to read, write, and speak in both languages. After your child is no longer an English Language Learner (ELL), your child will stay in the program to learn and improve both languages.
- Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE): In these programs, as your child gets better in English, they will spend more time learning in English and spend less time learning in the home language. When your child is no longer an English Language Learner (ELL), they leave the program.
Choosing the Right Program
As a parent or guardian of an English Language Learner, you have the right to choose which program you want for your child. Your child must be placed in a program within ten school days of enrollment (or 20 school days if your child has an Individualized Education Program).
If your school has a bilingual program:
- Your child will be placed in that bilingual program unless you choose to enroll your child in English as a New Language (ENL) only.
If your school does not have a bilingual program:
- Your child will still get English as a New Language (ENL) at their current school.
- If you want to request a bilingual program, but there are not enough students to create a bilingual education program at your child’s school, you might be able to transfer to a NYC public school with a bilingual program. Transportation services vary by school and your child’s eligibility. Talk to your school if you have questions about a bilingual program transfer or transportation options.
Learn More About the Programs
View a Parent Orientation Video
View the video(s) below, from the NY State Department of Education, to learn more about:
- English Language Learner identification and eligibility
- The three types of English Language Learner programs
- Ways parents can participate in their child’s education
Videos are available in:
Read Family Brochures
You can also read these translated brochures:
Attend Parent Orientation
Once your child is identified as an English Language Learner, your school will invite you to a parent orientation. At this meeting, you will:
- Learn about the different programs available for English Language Learners in the school or district.
- Be able to ask questions about services, with assistance from an interpreter, if needed.
- At the end of the meeting, parents or guardians will receive a form that you will use to tell us which program you want your child to be placed in.
Doing Well in a Program
Your child’s school will hold parent-teacher conferences and annual English Language Learners parent meetings to let you know how your child is doing in school.
Each spring your child will be given the NY State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT). This test measures your child’s progress in learning English. The results allow you, your child, and their teachers to understand strengths and areas that need improvement, such as speaking, reading, and writing. The results of this test are also used to determine if your child will continue to be identified as an English language learner in the next school year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will my child learn English if he or she is using our home language often?
A common concern is that students will be confused when learning in two languages. Research has shown that there is no language confusion. Using a student’s home language is the best way for them to develop English. Students who learn in two languages develop mental flexibility that helps them learn in powerful ways.
What kind of lessons should I expect in bilingual programs?
Students get part of their instruction in English and part in the home language, but the content is the same as in classrooms that are English-only. Students learn subjects such as math, science, and social studies in two languages.
When can my child leave English Language Learner programs?
There are three ways students can exit English Language Learner status:
Once your child has met one of the criteria above, they become a former English Language Learner. Former English Language Learners receive two years of support after they exit English Language Learner status.
- Ensure that your child goes to school every day, ready to learn.
- Ensure that your child reads and completes their homework assignments daily.
- Attend all parent-teacher conferences and annual English Language Learners parent meetings.
- Help your child obtain a public library card and visit the library frequently.
- Attend parent workshops and conferences that are specially designed to assist you in helping your child.
- Serve as a parent volunteer in your child’s school.
- Create a supportive home environment for learning and studying.
- Read with your child in your home language every day and encourage them to read daily.
- Attend school activities such as field trips, assemblies, Parent-Teacher Association, Parent Association, and Community Education Council meetings.
Find Out More
- View the parent orientation videos
- Read the translated brochures:
- Speak with your child’s teacher, principal, bilingual coordinator, or parent coordinator.
- Call 311 to find the address of your local district office and visit.
- Email the Division of Multilingual Learners at DML@schools.nyc.gov.