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GAO Issues Report on Identification of English Learners
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report this week that includes an analysis of how States and school districts identify English learners, including those with disabilities, for language services. 


Districts are required to identify English learners, including English learners with disabilities, enrolled in the district’s schools, which is typically achieved by having families enrolling new students complete a language survey.  Based on the survey results, districts then request that students complete an English language proficiency screening to determine whether services are needed and what types or level of services may be required.  Investigations a few years ago conducted by the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice indicated that some States were not identifying all English learners through their identification processes.  Following those investigations, ED released three questions that States should include on home language surveys in order to meet federal requirements, though additional questions can also be included.


As the basis for the report, GAO surveyed all 50 States on their English learner identification process, as well as how States ensure all English learners are identified.  GAO found that 48 States use the ED-approved questions for home language surveys but that 40 of those States either modified the questions and/or added questions to the surveys.  In addition, when asked about whether States have assessed the quality of their identification systems, 32 States reported that they had, primarily through reviewing their policies and procedures, as well as any federal guidelines on identification of English learners.  Finally, 41 States said that they provided assistance to school districts in identifying English learners with disabilities within the last three years, which included publishing guidance and providing instructional support, among other types of assistance.


The full GAO report on identifying English learners is available here.

About the Author

Kelly Christiansen is a Senior Legislative Analyst with the Washington, DC law firm of The Bruman Group, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Association of State Program Administrators (NAESPA).