English Language Development

English Language Development

English Language Development (ELD) instruction is designed specifically to advance English learners (ELs) knowledge and use of English in increasingly sophisticated ways. In the context of the larger effort to help English learners succeed in school, ELD instruction is designed to help them learn and acquire English to a level of proficiency that maximizes their capacity to engage successfully in academic studies taught in English. Although there might be multiple goals for ELD instruction—engaging in social interactions inside and outside of school and in other pursuits requiring English proficiency (e.g., obtaining news, serving as a juror, voting, shopping, banking, and locating and using information)—we would argue that preparation for academic studies taught in English remains the top priority because of its relevance to school and career success. Helping ELs succeed in academic contexts is no doubt the most challenging goal and most likely the greatest need to emerge in recent English learner research.


Identifying English Learners

When enrolling an immigrant who may have just recently arrived in the United States, district personnel face a number of key understandings. One such understanding is that English learners (ELs) are an incredibly diverse group.  These students may be refugees, migrants, have limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE), be unaccompanied minors, gifted learners or students with disabilities. The students’ educational backgrounds can be just as diverse. Some arrive having received quality education in their home country, while others have not. Some have taken formal English classes or have attended international schools where English was the language of instruction. The design of the enrollment process gather as much information as possible to identify the strengths and challenges the students bring with them to the school.

The second key understanding comes involves rulings by federal courts on a number of issues involving the rights of English learners in schools. One such ruling states that ELs must be provided equitable access to the educational program meaning any class in which they are enrolled. The court decided that it was insufficient to place students in classes alongside native English speakers without supports, accommodations, or modifications as the students are deprived of a meaningful education (Lau v. Nichols, 1974). 

This guidance is intended to support districts with enrollment, individual career and academic plans (ICAP) and instructional and assessment strategies. This guidance further endeavors to provide English learners from across the spectrum a motivating pathway to graduation.


Opting Out Of Services

Note: Even if a parent has refused ESL services, if that student has been identified as and English Learner, the student must be administered the ACCESS for ELLs annually until that student attains the State’s definition of English language proficient.

Information on screening students with the WIDA Screener or Newcomer Kit can be found here.


Curriculum And Instruction

With the development of the Missouri Learning Standards, and the accompanying MAP tests, schools have available both the state’s educational goals and a means to measure student performance against them. ELs have a legal and educational right to schooling that assists them in meeting these standards. The following discussion of curriculum focuses on a few additional guidelines, which can help schools, ensure that their programs respond to the unique educational needs of linguistically diverse students.

The ELD curriculum used must be tied to scientifically based research on teaching ELs and must have demonstrated effectiveness, which involves the application of rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to educational activities and programs. Local school systems will use the Missouri English Language Development (ELD) Standards as a basis for developing their own curricula, incorporating a scope and sequence that can be adapted to their individual program requirements and their EL population. With the Missouri ELD Standards as a guide and through collaboration of EL and content area teachers, ELs are provided quality instruction that enables them to meet school expectations, perform well on mandated assessments, and become college and career ready.

All teachers involved in the student’s education must pay attention to supporting students as they acquire both content knowledge and English proficiency (EL Toolkit, 2015). As always, district personnel must consider the characteristics and needs of the students as well as have specific training necessary to provide evidence-based support for ELs. Some newcomers arrive with an extensive, quality education in their home country. In some cases, these students have taken years of English classes. Students who have received a formal education in their home country may need minimal accommodations or modifications to access subject area content and will catch up quickly, especially those with a high level of literacy in the native language.

On the other end of the spectrum, the student may not have attended school for months or years. They likely have little understanding of English and may or may not be literate in their home language. Some speak a dialect of the home language that is unfamiliar to school personnel. Due to the variety of characteristics, ELs will need varying levels of modifications, accommodations and supports from all of their teachers to be successful. Resources and considerations to support students in all classrooms are available through the ELD webpage.

In addition to sufficient training, all teachers should be familiar with the student’s English Language Proficiency Level as determined by the WIDA Online Screener or the yearly ACCESS for ELLs assessment and are responsible for providing scaffolds and supports targeting the student’s specific ELP level. These assessments allow teachers to make data-informed decisions to meet the students where they are and to take them to the next level. 

Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP)
MSIP 5 Resource and Process Standards and Indicators

I-5 The local board of education adopts and district staff implement, review, and revise a rigorous, guaranteed, and viable curriculum for all instructional courses and programs.

  1. The district has a rigorous, written curriculum that includes the required components and is aligned to the most recent version of Missouri’s academic standards and the English language development standards.
  2. Essential content and skills that all students should know and be able to do have been identified.
  3. Adequate instructional time is available to implement the written curriculum.
  4. The written, taught, and assessed curriculum are the same.
  5. Written procedures are in place and administrators ensure that the written curriculum is implemented and is a part of the district’s program evaluation plan.
  6. The district’s written curriculum development and revision processes include K-12 vertical teams of instructional staff and administrators (including teachers of all student populations) who meet regularly to ensure articulation and vertical alignment. When Prekindergarten (PK) is offered by the district, instructional staff shall be included in the curriculum and development revision processes. (MISP 5, 2013)

Aligning the Curriculum

It is critical that the content of these settings be aligned with the district’s overall curriculum for the subject and grade level. Ideally, this is accomplished at the same time that the EL curriculum is developed. If the district’s curriculum is aligned with state standards, then adapting the curriculum should maintain that alignment. Administrators can support this effort by allowing teachers and curriculum developers a time to meet and coordinate EL teaching with the regular classroom program.

Outcomes of effective curriculum alignment would include:

  • Content and language goals/objectives for each unit, topic or theme
  • Specific Missouri Learning Standards covered
  • Measures both formative and summative for evaluating unit, topic or theme

ELD Programs

Placement And Scheduling

WIDA Resources

Additional Resources



In the case of English language proficiency, DESE defines a proficient student as one who scores a 4.7 or above on the yearly ACCESS for ELLs assessment. It is recognized that such a high-stakes decision should not rest on one test score alone and consequently, the reclassification policy reads as follows:

ACCESS Score District Actions
4.7 - 6.0 The student must be exited barring compelling evidence in the EL Portfolio suggesting the student should remain in the LIEP.
Below 4.7 The student must remain in the LIEP barring compelling evidence that the student is capable of fully participating in a classroom where English is the language of instruction. A traditional or digital portfolio must be collected and include evidence that any unsatisfactory domain score on the ACCESS is not indicative of her or his ability.

Note: Students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) should meet the above criteria or have Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that specify parallel, alternate standards-based criteria

Districts have flexibility on how additional evidence is gathered, the extent to which it is gathered, who collects and stores it and the final decision as to whether the evidence is sufficient to reclassify the student. ESSA has included provisions that scores on standardized content assessments (MAP Grade-Level, EOC) must not be considered when making reclassification decisions.

Another piece of evidence that should not be considered as a basis for transition is time in the ESOL program. Arbitrary program time limits as the basis for transitioning students from language support programs are not supported by language acquisition research or program evaluation. ELs should be transitioned from ESOL services based on ELP and progress in academic skills.

Too many factors contribute to student progress to make a single time period appropriate for all ELs. Several decades’ worth of research on language minority student academic achievement clearly indicates that anywhere from five to ten years are needed for a given student to reach parity with same-age peers.

Even after being transitioned, ELs must receive two-year periodic follow-up to ensure that they no longer need ELD services. More information can be found in the Identifying and Reclassifying English Learners guidance document.


Missouri LEAs are required to monitor all students for two school years after exit from LEP classification. Districts must keep documentation (state assessment scores, final ELP scores, parental notification) on file throughout the two-year monitoring period. Students in the monitoring period do not take the yearly ACCESS for ELs.

During this time, LEAs are to provide assistance or support in the general education classroom for all students who struggle academically. LEAs continue to have the responsibility of ensuring that all students are successful in meeting state standards. Occasionally, this means that a monitored student may need to be re-admitted to the ESOL program, if the student’s academic problems are determined to be as a result of continued difficulty with their ELP.

For purposes of accountability, in the first year of monitoring the student is classified as LEP/MY1. The second year the student will be reclassified as LEP/MY2. At the end of the second school year on monitor status, districts will no longer be required to keep documentation on file showing successful performance in the general education setting. However, these former ELs will continue to be included in accountability measures for an additional two years. The codes used after MY1&2 will be LEP/AY3 and LEP/AY4. After the fourth and final year, students will be coded as NLP. 


Family And Culture

The subject of family and cultural influences on schooling is far too broad to address adequately in a few resources. However, it is absolutely essential that all of the foregoing program considerations, from planning to evaluation, be framed by an awareness of and sensitivity to the diverse cultural expectations students and their families bring to school. These expectations can be easily overlooked as educators become engrossed in the program development and implementation concerns. One way to avoid forgetting who the program recipients are is to involve the parents and community in program planning and implementation. The remaining discussion indicates some of the ways school personnel can address the varied socio-cultural backgrounds of ELs and their families.


ELs w/Disabilities

Serving ELs With Disabilities

Considering program guidelines for ELs with Disabilities, as with other populations, one might expect to find a range of abilities among students whose English proficiency is limited. The difficulty often arises in determining whether a learning problem is related only to ELP level or whether the student has an actual disability. Students learning English, because of their cultural and linguistic background, have special instructional needs. When a student is having difficulty mastering specific skills, it is important for the teacher to differentiate the instructional strategies and/or instructional pace for the student. Just because the student requires accommodations to his/her program, it does not necessarily mean that he/she has a disability or that he/she should be referred to for a comprehensive evaluation for possible special education services.

If the student continues to have difficulty after consistent language differentiation and instructional interventions have been implemented, the student can be referred for a comprehensive evaluation IF the team suspects a disability. The ESL teacher has training in English language acquisition regardless of the student's first language and should be a member of the team considering the referral. The ESL teacher is also familiar with the usual rate and stages of acquisition, as wEL as the typical errors to be expected. Once a referral is made, a comprehensive evaluation is conducted. The evaluation team will determine if the student is eligible to receive special education services as a student with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

If the student is eligible for special education services, an Individual Education Program (IEP) is developed by the IEP team which includes required members as specified in the Missouri State Plan Special Education, IDEA, Part B. The IEP should address the student’s need(s) for services based on the students’ disability to be able to progress in the general education curriculum. If the IEP team deems appropriate, language assistance and support can be addressed in the present level of academic achievement and functional performance. If appropriate, ELs may be served through both programs.

If the severity of the student’s disability indicates more special education services are needed to meet the student’s needs rather than ESL services, the ESL specialist should work with school and district personnel to set up a consultative model for that student’s language development.

The ESL specialist should meet regularly with the special education teacher and maintain a record of consultations. Missouri uses ACCESS for ELLs® as its annual English Language Proficiency assessment. Students who are in monitored status for EL do not take the assessment. Form D is used by the IEP team to address the student’s participation with or without accommodations. For additional information, refer to: https://dese.mo.gov/college-career-readiness/assessment/el-assessment.


Prof Development

Professional Development

DESE has scheduled free professional development opportunities for Missouri K-12 educators in English language development. Use the TeamUp calendar on the DESE Curriculum page to register and get more information.

WIDA eLearning



The MELL program is designed to use existing resources to better serve English Learners (EL) and migrant students in Missouri public schools. The regional Migrant and English Language Learner (MELL) instructional specialists help districts with the following topics

  • Title I-C and Title III funds
  • Professional development opportunities
  • EL/Migrant identification
  • Building capacity in educational programs and strategies
  • Assistance to LEAs in enhancing English language proficiency and academic achievement of ELs
  • Additional EL topics
Region 1 - Guadalupe Magana
Counties served
Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Caldwell, Carroll, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Henry, Holt, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Mercer, Nodaway, Platte, Ray, Worth
816-235-8844 maganag@umkc.edu
Region 2 - Dr. Cynthia Chasteen
Counties served
Adair, Audrain, Benton, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Chariton, Clark, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Knox, Lewis, Linn, Macon, Maries, Marion, Miller, Moniteau, Monroe, Morgan, Osage, Pettis, Putnam, Ralls, Randolph, Saline, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Sullivan
Region 3 - Robert Greenhaw
Counties served
Franklin, Gasconade, Jefferson, Lincoln, Montgomery, Pike, St. Charles, St. Louis, Warren
314-692-1256 rgreenhaw@edplus.org
Region 4 - Rhonda Hittenberger-Ortiz
Counties served
Barry, Barton, Bates, Cedar, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Douglas, Greene, Hickory, Howell, Jasper, Laclede, Lawrence, McDonald, Newton, Ozark, Polk, Pulaski, St. Clair, Stone, Taney, Texas, Vernon, Webster, Wright
417-836-4090 rhittenbergerortiz@missouristate.edu
Region 5 - Julie Antill
Counties served
Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Carter, Crawford, Dent, Dunklin, Iron, Madison, Mississippi, New Madrid, Oregon, Pemiscot, Perry, Phelps, Reynolds, Ripley, Scott, Shannon, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Stoddard, Washington, Wayne
573-986-6794 jantill@semo.edu
Shawn Cockrum - Director of Student Support Service
MELL, Title III, Immigrant, Migrant, Refugee
573-751-8280 shawn.cockrum@dese.mo.gov
Cammy Goucher - ELD Curriculum Director
EL Instruction, building capacity in educational programs and strategies, assistance to LEAs in enhancing English language proficiency and academic achievement of ELs
573-751-3926 cammy.goucher@dese.mo.gov
Drew Linkon - Assistant Director of Assessment
DESE Assessment
573-751-8285 drew.linkon@dese.mo.gov
Yaya Badji - Supervisor - EL, Immigrant & Refugee 816-235-6157 yaya.badji@dese.mo.gov

Additional Resources

Previous Publications

World Languages

World Languages

New and unprecedented global challenges make the need for international understanding and collaboration more valuable than ever before. By providing students with pathways to develop multi-literacy and global competence, they will be prepared to engage in intercultural communication with cultures from around the world. Global influences within our state can only be enriched and enhanced by providing increased opportunities for students throughout the state to develop multi-literacy through the study of languages in addition to English.

All Missouri students should have the opportunity to develop proficiency in languages other than English, including their heritage language, and to develop global competence by demonstrating intercultural proficiency. This means that rather than being discouraged from enrollment in world languages courses, each and every student, including English Learners (EL), students living in poverty, migrant students, students with visible and non-visible disabilities, underserved students, Deaf and hard of hearing students, students with interrupted formal education (SIFE), Gifted and Talented students, and students with low academic skills deserve the opportunity to develop their skills in both English and at least one language other than English in order to prepare them to be college- and career-ready.

Learning a World Language

  • promotes an understanding of different cultures and allows students to connect with others and value diversity
  • increases the understanding of one's own language and culture
  • strengthens literacy in all subject areas
  • enhances and enriches life opportunities
  • positively affects intellectual growth

A well-articulated and properly sequenced program of study results in higher levels of proficiency which are demonstrated in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and presentational skills through performance of authentic tasks.

Understanding multiple languages and cultures can offer students professional opportunities and success in a variety of career fields and future endeavors such as graduate studies, education, Foreign Service work, business, social work, public service, law, journalism, and health professions. To promote such participation in a global society, the Missouri Seal of Biliteracy has encouraged and recognized students for high levels of proficiency in English and at least one additional language since 2017.

Missouri is now a member of the National Council of State Supervisors for Language (NCSSFL).

The vision of NCSSFL is a nation in which all individuals will be prepared for the demands of an interdependent world by attaining competence in more than one language and culture.

The mission of NCSSFL is to provide leadership in facilitating and promoting policies and practices that support language education.

The purpose of NCSSFL is to affect state and national policy and practice in language education by:

  • identifying and advocating positions on key issues in support of the vision of the organization;
  • collaborating with other organizations to advance and support quality teaching, learning and leadership;
  • communicating best practices across international boundaries; and
  • fostering and promoting the establishment, maintenance, and effectiveness of state-level positions in languages.

For more information visit: https://ncssfl.org