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English Learner Services During COVID-19 FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding services to English learners in California during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Education provided a factsheet to states titled, "Providing Services to English Learners during the COVID-19 Outbreak." The following FAQs provide answers from a California context.

Entrance Requirements

  1. How may a local educational agency (LEA) determine a new student's English learner (EL) status remotely?

    An LEA that is continuing to enroll new students during the COVID-19 national emergency should attempt to identify EL students remotely to the greatest extent possible.

    An LEA must screen new students to determine EL status to the extent possible.

    An LEA operating via remote learning may conduct an online registration process that includes a home language survey for parents, and the LEA may be able to conduct a version of its screening assessment online for temporary identification.

    The LEA may also communicate with parents by phone, with interpreters as needed, to conduct the oral home language survey in the parent's native language to identify potential EL students and may explain to parents orally the required information.

    When the school physically reopens, the LEA would complete the full identification procedures to promptly ensure proper identification and placement for new EL students.

  2. How may registration and presumptive EL status issues be minimized during school closures?

    Based on U.S. Department of Education guidance, during school closures, the following applies:

    a) The LEA (including charter schools) should assist parents who might now have the electronic means, process language, or understanding of the process to register their child/children for school.

    b) LEAs must conduct a Home Language Survey (HLS), over the phone with interpreters, if needed, for all students newly enrolled in their district for the first time in a California school. For students who have been previously enrolled in another school in California, please refer to California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) for their English language status.

    c) As part of an LEA's enrollment process, if the HLS determines that the student's primary language is a language other than English, the LEA will need to advise the parent/guardian in writing within 30 days, and to the extent possible, in a language the parent understands that until the initial English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) is conducted to determine the student's official English proficiency, English language development services will be provided through distance learning instruction.

  3. Who may administer the Initial ELPAC screener to potential English learners?

    According to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations Section 11518 (l) an “ELPAC test examiner” is an employee or contractor of an LEA or nonpublic school (NPS) who has electronically agreed to an ELPAC Test Security Affidavit, who is proficient in English and has complete command of pronunciation, intonation, and fluency, and who certifies completion of training in the administration of the ELPAC.

  4. Who may administer the Summative ELPAC to English learners?
    According to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations Section 11518 (l) an “ELPAC test examiner” is an employee or contractor of an LEA or nonpublic school (NPS) who has electronically agreed to an ELPAC Test Security Affidavit, who is proficient in English and has complete command of pronunciation, intonation, and fluency, and who certifies completion of training in the administration of the ELPAC.
  5. What if my district cannot complete all Initial English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) testing by the extended 2020–21 window?

    For the 2020–21 school year, all new students to a California public school who report a language other than English on any of the first three questions of the Home Language Survey (HLS), who are awaiting assessment, and have an English language acquisition status (ELAS) of “To be determined” (TBD), are to receive ELD instruction until the Initial ELPAC can be administered. Parents must be notified of services. Once the Initial ELPAC has been administered to those who are designated as TBD, the ELAS will be updated. The U.S. Department of Education will allow states to report both EL and TBD students as English learners in the 2020–21 school year for federal reporting purposes only. The Initial ELPAC must be administered as soon as possible to comply with the requirement to identify students for services.

    For questions regarding the reporting of TBD students in CALPADS, please send your questions to the CALPADS Office at

    For questions regarding the administration of the Initial ELPAC assessment, please send your questions to the ELPAC Office at  

    For questions regarding the HLS, please contact the Technical Assistance and Monitoring Office at

  6. What if the Home Language Survey has a language other than English identified only on the fourth question?

    If a language other than English is indicated on the fourth question only, the student may be tested at the discretion of the local educational agency upon receipt of more information.

Annual Summative ELPAC Assessment

  1. How should an LEA make decisions regarding the instruction and program services of ELs without data from the ELPAC assessment?

    LEAs typically use the annual ELPAC assessment to inform instruction and program services for English learners, in addition to decisions on exiting students from EL status. LEAs could schedule the ELPAC assessment early in the 2020–2021 school year, as the window has been extended to October 2020, using social distancing protocols at the school site where the schools are open. If that is not possible, LEAs may use formative assessments and/or EL specialists and teacher input to help inform instruction and program services decisions.

    For those students for whom the LEA has ELPAC assessment data from the 2019–2020 school year, the LEA should use those results to inform instruction, program services, and reclassification of ELs.

Providing Services to English Learners

  1. Must an LEA providing remote learning provide language instruction services to EL students?

    Yes, if an LEA is providing remote learning for its students, the LEA must provide language instruction services to EL students. The California Department of Education (CDE) recognizes that physical school closures may affect how services are provided and that schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided, therefore, EL services may be provided virtually, online, or via telephone.

  2. How might collaboration take place to continue to meet the needs of EL students?

    The CDE encourages parents, educators, and administrators to collaborate creatively to continue to meet the needs of EL students. Consider practices such as remote instruction, phone calls, meetings held on digital platforms, online options for data tracking, and documentation of services, supports, and accommodations provided. In addition, an LEA might consider non- technology-based strategies, such as providing instructional packets or assigning projects and written assignments to EL students.

  3. Must an LEA that is operating remotely provide integrated English language and other accommodations for EL students in content classes?

    Yes. The LEA is required to provide integrated English language development and any other necessary accommodations to English learners for content classes that are held remotely. Many accommodations may be effectively provided online.

    These may include extensions of time for assignments, videos with captioning or embedded interpreting, accessible or translated reading materials, other language services provided through video conferencing, an online translation dictionary, or other technological solutions. Funds under Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), can be used for that purpose, provided they do not supplant state, local, or other federal funds. Where meaningful access to remote instruction is not possible, hard copy packets, teacher check-ins, or tutorials, or other methods may be implemented. All EL students must receive appropriate language services and supports to the greatest extent possible.
  4. Is an LEA required to continue to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to English learners with disabilities during a school closure due to COVID-19?

    If an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that English learners with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE.

    LEAs, and schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability, including each English learner with a disability, can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s individualized education program (IEP) developed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or a plan developed under Section 504.
  5. Must an LEA operating remotely continue to provide equitable services to eligible EL students enrolled in private schools?

    Yes, the LEA has an obligation to provide equitable services to eligible private school EL students and their teachers as agreed upon during the consultation process between LEAs and private school officials. However, due to school closures, additional consultation with private school officials may be required to determine if there are potential barriers to students receiving services via remote learning and how such barriers might be overcome.

    The discussion might also include the option of temporarily suspending equitable services during school closures and resuming services once schools reopen, possibly extending into the summer.
  6. May an LEA and school make available small instructional hubs onsite for special learners (i.e. English learners and students with disabilities) when the county is on the Governor’s watchlist?
    Yes. Generally, schools may not be open in regions that have been on the watchlist in the preceding 14 days. But elementary schools may obtain a waiver, in which case, each LEA and school site must follow local health department guidelines and protocols to provide a safe environment for students, teachers, and others involved in everyday attendance onsite. Access to and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required. For more information on the waiver granted by the local health officer for elementary schools to open with in-person instruction, visit the Governor’s COVID-19 web page to read COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).

Use of Title III Funds

  1. If an LEA is providing remote learning, may funds under Title III of ESEA, as amended by ESSA, provide support for English learners by purchasing software for EL student use in the content areas, or would that be considered supplanting?

    The supplement-not-supplant requirement applies to funds under Title III of ESEA, as amended by ESSA, even when an LEA is conducting remote learning. However, while schools are operating via remote learning, Title III funds may be used to supplement the basic instruction or support that must be provided to English learners (i.e., to supplement the Language Instruction Educational Program [LIEP]). Title III funds may not be used for core supports and instruction.

    However, use of Title III funds for supplemental coursework with additional online resources and software for English learners or adding an EL support teacher to provide online support or support via telephone calls to students for additional assistance is allowable.
  2. If an LEA provides for internet access, hotspots, and tablets or other devices for low-income students who do not have access to technology, may Title III funds provide similar resources for those low-income students who are English learners to enable their internet access?

    No. If an LEA provides remote learning for everyone, including internet access or educational technology for low-income students, then the LEA cannot use Title III funds for that purpose for the low-income students who are English learners, because that would violate the supplement-not-supplant requirement.

    The LEA may use Title III funds for supplemental hardware or software that is designed specifically for English learners (e.g., software to provide language accessibility features or tools) and that supplement the LIEP.
  3. What other funding sources are available during school closures to support access to internet and devices?

    State, local, and other federal funds should be used to provide the same access for English learners. For example, recipients of subgrants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF), and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF) can generally use those grants for student internet access and devices to enable online learning as well as accessible technology for English learners with disabilities, among other uses of funds.

    When using other potential sources, the LEA must be sure that the use of the funds is, under the specific circumstances of the expenditure and the program authority selected, reasonable and necessary for the purposes of that program, and does not violate other program-specific requirements:

    • Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAE);
    • Title V, Part B, Subpart 1, Small, Rural School Achievement Program (SRSA);
    • Title V, Part B, Subpart 2, Rural and Low-Income School Program (RLIS);
    • Sections 7002 and 7003(b), Impact Aid; and
    • Section 4624, Promise Neighborhoods.
  4. May Title III funds be used to train teachers to use new online platforms and software designed for English learners? Does that training need to be limited to training EL teachers or may the LEA include all teachers who have English learners in their classes?

    An LEA may use Title III funds for teacher training if it is specific to EL needs. The training could include all teachers if it is geared towards meeting the needs of English learners or if it relates to software or embedded supports for English learners.

    However, if the training is for the same online platform that all teachers will use for all classes, and does not address EL needs, then the use of Title III funds for such training would be not be permitted, as it would be supplanting, rather than supplementing, other available funding sources.

Reclassification (Exit) Procedures

  1. If an LEA was not able to complete the ELPAC assessment for all English learners in spring 2020, should all English learners be kept in EL status for the fall, even if some of them may be proficient in English according to their teachers? May an LEA exit such students without administering the ELPAC assessment?

    Per California requirements for reclassifying students during school closures due to COVID-19:

    LEAs should continue using the following four criteria to establish reclassification policies and procedures:

    • Assessment of English language proficiency, using an objective assessment instrument, including, but not limited to, the state test of ELPAC;
    • Teacher evaluation, including, but not limited to, a review of the student's curriculum mastery;
    • Parent opinion and consultation; and
    • Comparison of student performance in basic skills against an empirically established range of performance in basic skills of English proficient students of the same age.

    ELPAC Overall Performance Level (PL) 4 has been established as the statewide standardized English language proficiency (ELP) criterion (1), and LEAs shall use Overall PL 4 to determine whether a student has met that criterion. All other reclassification criteria (2–4) remain locally determined.

    The CDE is providing the following reclassification guidance for criteria 1 and 4:

    Criterion 1: For those students who completed testing in 2019–2020, LEAs will use the results from the 2019–2020 Summative ELPAC to determine reclassification eligibility. For those students who did not complete testing in the spring of 2019–2020, an optional fall Summative ELPAC window will be open and available between August 20–October 30, 2020.

    During this window, LEAs can administer the optional fall Summative ELPAC and use the results to meet criterion 1 eligibility for reclassification. The optional fall Summative ELPAC is highly recommended for all EL students who have already met all other criteria in 2019–2020 except for criterion 1, particularly in grades four to eleven. For students that met Criterion 1 in 2018–19 by obtaining an Overall PL 4 have until December 2020 to complete the process of reclassification as the timeline has been extended to allow for the other local criteria to be completed.

    Criterion 4: For all grade levels, LEAs can use most recent local assessments or the Smarter Balanced Summative English language arts assessments.
  2. For those students who scored Overall Performance Level 4 on the 2018–19 ELPAC, but the LEA was unable to complete the reclassification process prior to the 2019-20 school closures, can the process be completed in 2020?

    Yes, you may complete the process of reclassifying those students using those scores, the timeline has been extended until December 2020.

  3. Is there is an exception for an English learner with a disability whose disability makes it impossible for the student to be assessed in a particular domain?
    Yes. When a student’s IEP or Section 504 plan specifies that the student has a disability for which there are no appropriate accommodations for assessment in one or more of the Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing domains, the student shall be assessed in the remaining domains in which it is possible to assess the student, per 34 CFR Section 200.6. A student may be assigned an overall score only if assessed in both oral and written language. To be considered as having been assessed in oral language, the student must have been assessed in either Speaking or Listening. To be considered as having been assessed in written language, the student must have been assessed in either Reading or Writing. For more information, visit the 2020–21 ELPAC Information Guide on the CDE ELPAC web page.

Parent of English Learners

  1. How should LEAs ensure meaningful communication with parents of English learners in a language and format they can understand and access?

    LEAs have an obligation to ensure meaningful communication with parents of English learners in a language they can understand and to adequately notify them of information about any program, service, or activity of an LEA that is called to the attention of non-EL parents.

    LEAs are sending crucial information to parents regarding, for example, the expectations for parents to pick up or set up new technology, new enrollment protocols, meal availability, and how to support their students at home. LEAs should consider all possible methods in order to ensure meaningful communication with EL parents (e.g., translation of mailings and emails; several different recorded language phone calls for illiterate parents).
  2. What funding sources are available to LEAs for use with parent communication efforts?
    LEAs can generally use CARES Act funds under the ESSERF and GEERF for communication with parents, including translation and interpretation services.


U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Education website on COVID-19 External link opens in new window or tab.

National Clearing House on English Language Acquisition (NCELA) External link opens in new window or tab.

Non-Regulatory Guidance (2016): English Learners and Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

If you have questions for the U.S. Department of Education related to school closures and COVID-19, please send to If you have questions for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), want additional information or technical assistance, or believe that a school is violating federal civil rights law, call your regional office or visit the website of the U.S. Department of Education’s OCR External link opens in new window or tab.. You may contact OCR at 800-421-3481 (TDD: 800-877-8339), at, or contact OCR’s Outreach, Prevention, Education and Non-discrimination (OPEN) Center at You may also fill out a complaint form online External link opens in new window or tab. .

California Department of Education (CDE)


CDE Distance Learning

CDE English Learners

CDE COVID-19 Reclassification Letter

CDE English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC)

Questions:   Multilingual Support Division | | 916-319-0938
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, October 6, 2021
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