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Initial Identification of English Learners

When parents first enroll their children in a public school, they are given an enrollment packet which includes a questionnaire containing questions about the language(s) that the student speaks. In California and other states this questionnaire is often called a "home language survey". The survey asks various questions about language development such as: 1) Which language did your child learn when he/she first began to talk?; 2) Which language does your child most frequently speak at home?; 3) Which language do you (i.e., the parents or guardians) most frequently use when speaking with your child?; and, 4) Which language is most often spoken by adults in the home? (i.e., parents, guardians, grandparents, or any other adults).

If a parent identifies a language other than English on one of the questions, the child is identified as an "English learner". California law requires that students who have been identified as an English learner are to be administered an assessment of English within 30 days as well as an assessment of their primary language within 90 days. The English proficiency test used in the state of California is the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). Based on the English assessment results, the student may remain identified as an English learner or they may be classified as an I-FEP, a student who has been initially identified as Fluent-English-Proficient.

What is important to note is that the home language survey or the process of being identified as an "English Learner" DOES NOT automatically place students in a bilingual or ESL classroom. The home language survey is merely an instrument that assists with the identification of students as English learners in order for students to receive appropriate educational services. Upon enrollment, California education code requires that parents are provided a full consultation of the educational programs in the school district. Based on the English and primary language assessment results, parents may be given a recommendation as to which program might be educationally appropriate for the child, but parents have the final choice as to which program their child is enrolled. Parents who have children identified as an English learner (i.e., a student who speaks more than one language) may choose to have their children placed in an English classroom or a bilingual classroom (if the school district offers such a program).

Why is the home language survey important?

The home language survey is important because it identifies which students are classified as English learners and may possibly require additional language assistance in the future. Once again, the home language survey does NOT automatically trigger placement in an ESL or bilingual classroom. Additional federal and state funds are also disseminated to schools based on the number of students who have been formally classified as English learners. Such funds can be used to purchase materials, software and other supplemental resources in order to assist students with language development.