English Language Learners

An English Language Learner, or ELL, is a student whose home language is not English and needs support learning English.

Identifying English Language Learners

All parents and guardians of newly enrolled students must complete a Home Language Identification Survey to let school staff know 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 and shows whether your child needs support programs and services. If the test shows that your child needs support learning English, your child will be identified as an English language learner.

Programs and Services Available for English Language Learners

We offer three programs for English Language Learners:

  • Dual Language
  • Transitional Bilingual Education
  • English as a New Language

About the Programs

The video below, from the NY State Department of Education, provides information on:

  • English Language Learner identification and eligibility
  • The three types of English Language Learner programs
  • Ways parents can participate in their child’s education

Dual Language

The dual language program teaches students in two languages: English and their home language, such as Spanish, Chinese, or French, among others. The home language and English are used equally. The goal of this program is for students to be able to read, write, and speak in both English and their home language.

Transitional Bilingual Education

The transitional bilingual education program provides reading, writing, and other classes in English and in the student’s home language. As students’ English improves, they spend more time learning in English and less time learning in their home language. Students leave the program when they are no longer identified as English Language Learners. The goal of this program is to support students' in their home language while they fully transition to English-only instruction.

English as a New Language

The English as a New Language program used to be called English as a Second Language or ESL. It provides instruction in English with support in the students’ home language so that they can learn to read, write, and speak English. Students from many different language backgrounds are taught together, and English may be the only common language among them. The goal of the program is to provide instruction in English with supports in the student's home language until they become English proficient.

Program Benefits

There are many benefits to these programs:

  • Students are able to use their home language to learn English.
  • Students learn to appreciate different cultures.
  • Students who speak two or more language are valuable to future employers.

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. Once you select the right program for your child, your child must be placed in the program of your choice within ten days of enrollment.

If the program you selected is not available at your child’s current school, you may either:

  • Keep your child enrolled at the current school in a different English Language Learner program. If you choose this option, the school will immediately place your child in that program, or
  • Transfer your child to a school that offers the program you’re interested in. Your current school will work with the Division of English Language Learners and School Support on your child’s transfer. Until the transfer is complete, your child will temporarily be placed in an English Language Learner program at the current school.

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. 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.

Read more about the NY State English as a Second Language Achievement Test:

Becoming Involved

  • 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.

Learning More about the Programs

  • 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.
  • Call the Division of English Language Learners at 212-323-9559 or email ellfamilies@schools.nyc.gov
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