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Reclassification

Information on how a district determines whether or not an English learner student has sufficient English proficiency to be reclassified as a fluent English speaker.

Reclassification is the process whereby a student is reclassified from English learner (EL) status to fluent English proficient (RFEP) status. Local educational agencies (LEAs) determine when the student has met the four criteria listed in Education Code (EC) Section 313 (f) External link opens in new window or tab. . To complete the reclassification process, each criterion must be considered for every eligible student.

Reclassification Criteria

The reclassification criteria set forth in California EC Section 313 and Title 5 California Code of Regulations (5 CCR) Section 11303 remain unchanged. LEAs should continue using the following four criteria to establish reclassification policies and procedures:

Criterion 1: Assessment of English Language Proficiency

Assessment of language proficiency using an objective assessment instrument, including, but not limited to, the English language development test that is developed pursuant to EC Section 60810 External link opens in new window or tab.:

  • The English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) constitute the required state assessments for English language proficiency (ELP) administered to students whose primary language is a language other than English.
    • The ELPAC Overall Performance Level (PL) 4 was approved by the State Board of Education as the statewide standardized ELP criterion (1). LEAs shall use ELPAC Overall PL 4 to determine whether a student has met that criterion.
    • In practice, this means that all students with an ELPAC Overall PL 4 are eligible to be considered for reclassification in conjunction with other locally determined criteria.
    • Some EL students with unique needs, or dually-identified students, may need specific considerations for this criterion as described in the student’s individualized learning plan (IEP); see the "Establishing Criteria" tab.

Resources to Support Criterion 1

Criterion 2: Teacher Evaluations

Teacher evaluations, including, but not limited to, a review of the pupil's curriculum mastery:

  • This criterion remains locally determined and LEAs should continue using teacher evaluations per local policy to establish reclassification policies and procedures for Criterion 2.
  • The CDE is in the process of developing a standardized resource for this criterion. The Observation Protocol for Teachers of English Learners (OPTEL) is an observation protocol currently under development to meet the conditions of EC Section 313.3 External link opens in new window or tab., per California Assembly Bill 1808 requirements.

Resources to Support Criterion 2

Criterion 3: Parent Consultation

Parental opinion and consultation:

  • This criterion remains locally determined for the 2020–21 school year and LEAs should continue using parental opinion and consultation per local policy to establish reclassification policies and procedures for Criterion 3.
  • The CDE is in the process of developing a standardized resource for use when addressing this criterion. The OPTEL is an observation protocol currently under development to meet the conditions of California EC Section 313.3, per California AB 1808 requirements.

Resources to Support Criterion 3

The following resources may be helpful for LEAs looking for tools to support parent consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Criterion 4: Basic Skills Relative to English Proficient Students

Comparison of the performance of the pupil in basic skills against an empirically established range of performance in basic skills based upon the performance of English proficient pupils of the same age, which demonstrates whether the pupil is sufficiently proficient in English to participate effectively in a curriculum designed for pupils of the same age whose native language is English:

  • LEAs establish the empirical range of performance in basic skills when setting the locally established criteria for reclassification and consider the overall achievement goals set for all students. In doing so, the following definitions of related terms may be helpful:

    • Performance in basic skills: The score and/or performance level resulting from a recent administration of an objective assessment of basic skills in English (e.g., Smarter Balanced assessments, district benchmarks).
    • Range of performance in basic skills: A range of scores on the assessment of basic skills in English that corresponds to a performance level or a range of scores within a performance level.
    • Students of the same age: English-proficient students who are enrolled in the same grade as the student who is being considered for reclassification.

Resources to Support Criterion 4

The following resources may be helpful for LEAs looking for tools to support the basic skills criterion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smarter Balanced Website External link opens in new window or tab.
The Smarter Balanced assessment system is designed to support instruction and give teachers better information about their students’ progress.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) External link opens in new window or tab.
Students in grades three through eight and grade eleven will receive full-length summative tests for both English language arts/literacy and mathematics, with approximately seven to eight hours of total testing time for each student.

2020–21 Spring Summative Assessment Administration Flexibility Guidelines (DOCX)
California will continue to provide Summative ELPAC and CAASPP statewide assessments through the extended statewide testing window of July 30, 2021.

State Board of Education Approved Content Standards
Content standards were designed to encourage the highest achievement of every student, by defining the knowledge, concepts, and skills that all students should acquire at each grade level.

Following the Reclassification Rainbow

The reclassification rainbow reminds us to always consider all of the criteria when making reclassification decisions.

The following process is suggested for LEAs to conjunctively consider student results for all of the four reclassification criteria discussed above for every eligible student under consideration. At a minimum, decision-makers should progress through all three of the following steps for all English learners who score at an ELPAC Overall PL 4.

  1. Review student performance on Criterion 1: Assessment of ELP. A student's ELPAC score is the primary indicator of whether a student is ready for reclassification.
    1. Students who score at ELPAC Overall PL 4 should be identified and considered for reclassification.
    2. Students who score at ELPAC Overall PL 3 or lower should not be identified or considered for reclassification. However,LEAs are encouraged to convene stakeholders for a larger conversation to inform planning, placement, and personal goals for the short term and the next school year. These convenings should include parents whenever possible and focus on strengths, growth areas, and opportunities for the student.
  2. Review student performance on Criterion 2: Teacher Evaluation and Criterion 4: Comparison of Performance in Basic Skills.
    1. For students who score at ELPAC Overall PL 4, LEAs should establish a local policy and process to collect feedback on an eligible student’s mastery of the curriculum provided by that student’s teachers.
  3. Connect with EL families to address Criterion 3: Parent Opinion and Consultation, discuss student performance status on all of the criteria (Criteria 1–4), as well as address parental questions, goals, and concerns for the next school year. An interpreter should be provided for the parent when necessary.
    1. For students who score at ELPAC Overall PL 4, LEAs are encouraged to convene relevant stakeholders including the student's current teachers, teachers from the previous school year, and relevant academic coordinators to discuss the eligible student's performance and set goals for the next school year. These consultations should lead to a reclassification discussion, include parents of the eligible student, and yield collaboratively developed plans for any support to be provided to the student during the four-year RFEP monitoring period, when appropriate.
    2. Please note, deficits in motivation and academic success unrelated to ELP may indicate academic deficits incurred while learning English, but do not preclude a student from reclassification as long as the student is provided ongoing academic support and any other necessary support during the four-year RFEP monitoring period designed to recuperate and remedy any such deficits.
      1. If other reclassification criteria suggest that a student who scored at ELPAC Overall PL 4 has learning deficits in other areas (or in certain linguistic subdomains within the ELPAC), decision-makers are encouraged to discuss these results with adults who know the student (e.g., classroom teachers, parents, instructional specialists or coaches), to identify needed services (ELP or something else) so as not to preclude a student from reclassification, if merited.

RFEP Monitoring

State and federal laws require LEAs to monitor students who have exited EL status for a period of four years after they have been reclassified to fluent English proficient status (20 U.S.C. Section 6841(a)(4)(5); 5 CCR Section 11304). In December 2019, the CDE released guidance regarding RFEP monitoring in a Letter to Local Educational Agencies Regarding the Monitoring of Reclassified Students.

After students have exited an EL program, LEAs must monitor the academic progress of former EL students for at least four years to ensure that:

  • The students have not been prematurely exited;
  • Any academic deficit they incurred as a result of learning English has been remedied; and
  • The students are meaningfully participating in the standard instructional program comparable to their English-only peers.

In preparation for and during the four-year RFEP monitoring period, LEAs can continue to use the results of Criteria 2–4 to inform areas of focus for reclassified students. To this end, LEAs should establish rigorous monitoring systems that include benchmarks for expected growth in acquiring academic content knowledge during the academic year and take appropriate steps to assist students who are not adequately progressing toward those goals. During this monitoring time, LEAs must ensure that RFEP students have met the same academic achievement goals set for all students.

If RFEP students do not yet meet the same academic achievement goals set for all students intervention and support is to be provided. These services are not dependent on specialized funds. When an LEA’s monitoring of an exited EL student indicates that academic deficits were incurred while the student learned English, the LEA should take affirmative steps to provide remedy of those deficits. For example, reclassified students who score below the adjusted range of performance on Criterion 4 during the four-year monitoring period should receive focused support to ensure that they reach and maintain parity with native-English peers.

Legislation

Reclassification procedures shall utilize multiple criteria in determining whether to reclassify a pupil as proficient in English, including, but not limited to, all of the following:

  1. Assessment of language proficiency using an objective assessment instrument, including, but not limited to, the English language development test that is developed or acquired pursuant to Section 60810.
  2. Teacher evaluation, including, but not limited to, a review of the pupil's curriculum mastery.
  3. Parental opinion and consultation.
  4. Comparison of the performance of the pupil in basic skills against an empirically established range of performance in basic skills based upon the performance of English proficient pupils of the same age, that demonstrates whether the pupil is sufficiently proficient in English to participate effectively in a curriculum designed for pupils of the same age whose native language is English.

EC Section 313(f) External link opens in new window or tab.
English Language Proficiency (ELP) Assessment requirements are specified in California Education Code sections 313, 60810, and 60812.

EC Section 60810 External link opens in new window or tab.
California law requires that the assessment for initial identification of an English learner and the summative assessment shall include, but not be limited to, an assessment of achievement of these pupils in English reading, speaking, and written skills.

Considerations for Establishing Criteria

Considerations Around Criterion 1 for the 2020–21 School Year

In a letter to the field dated July 1, 2020, the California Department of Education (CDE) provided the following Coronavirus (COVID-19) reclassification guidance for Criterion 1:

  • For those students who completed testing in 2019–20, local educational agencies (LEAs) will use the results from the 2019–20 Summative English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) to determine reclassification eligibility.
  • For those students who did not complete testing in the spring of 2019–20, an optional fall Summative ELPAC (PDF) window was open and available for reclassification purposes between August 20–October 30, 2020, for students who would benefit from administration to support reclassification.
    • During this window, LEAs could administer the optional fall Summative ELPAC and use the results to meet criterion 1 eligibility for reclassification.
    • Administration of the optional fall Summative ELPAC was highly recommended for all English learner (EL) students who have already met all other criteria (Criteria 2–4) in 2019–20 except criterion 1, particularly in grades four to eleven. Students were required to take the test form that aligned to their assigned academic grade-level in the 2019–20 school year.

With the possible exception of students with unique needs or who are dually identified, EL students who do not have an ELPAC score (from either the spring 2020 or fall 2020 administrations) are not eligible to be reclassified, even if they have met other locally-determined criteria.

Some EL students with unique needs or who are dually-identified students, may be unable to participate fully in the ELPAC without accommodations. In such instances, members of the student's individualized education program (IEP) team should confer to document and discuss how the student's unique needs affect their ability to obtain an Overall PL 4 and whether reclassification should be considered on the basis of the local alternative assessment information based on the student's specific needs and abilities.

Considerations Around Criterion 2 for the 2020–21 School Year

If it is not possible to use the same process or instrument as in previous years, LEAs may adopt or create a process or instrument for educators to use to provide feedback focused on student support and mastery in the current school year. For example, teachers may provide feedback on their EL students' curriculum mastery in the first unit of the 2020–21 school year with a focus on potential supports necessary for each student to succeed in rigorous, grade-level learning for the remainder of the year.

It is possible that teachers may have had less synchronous instruction and follow-up contact with students during spring 2020 distance learning schedules, making it difficult for them to provide judgments about their EL students' curriculum mastery. It is also likely that all students, EL students and non-EL students alike, mastered less of their grade-level academic curriculum in the 2019–20 school year than usual due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts in the field of teaching, learning, and assessment generally encourage educators to use an asset-based approach to student placement and assessment in the fall of 2020 as presented in two guidance documents: Addressing Unfinished Learning After COVID-19 School Closures External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), from the Council for Great City Schools External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), and Restart & Recovery: Assessment Considerations for Fall 2020 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), from the Council of Chief State School Officers External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF).  

In practice, this means focusing less on what students failed to learn in 2019–20 and focusing more on how educators can assist students to progress toward grade-level in content learning. If an LEA's current process or tool for this criterion does not match or encourage this asset-based approach, an LEA can modify their approach for the 2020–21 school year to ensure that student information received supporting Criterion 2 is constructive and supportive during monitoring.

Considerations Around Criterion 3 for the 2020–21 School Year

Parents have been asked to take on new responsibilities and levels of engagement in their children's education in 2020. These new responsibilities are often concurrent with changes in parents' own working conditions and environments. Against this backdrop, it may be particularly difficult to engage with families that face challenges in terms of technology access, ELP, or financial stability during the 2020–21 school year. Access issues should not, however, become a justification for failing to connect with parents.

LEAs must think strategically about connecting with parents, including through alternative means (e.g., direct phone calls; one-on-one conferences) if needed. If it is not possible to use the same process or instrument as in previous years, LEAs can reach out to parents of all students eligible for reclassification to consult via phone, virtual school platforms, or other technology that is available to parents. This gives parents the opportunity to discuss progress and data to voice any concerns and questions about their child's likely reclassification. Hearing parent concerns, responding to their questions, and then collaboratively identifying strategies to address those questions is an appropriate use of parent consultation time.

When consulting with parents regarding reclassification in the 2020–21 school year, LEAs should focus on the information that makes the student eligible, any necessary supports for the student to succeed in rigorous, grade-level learning, and how to monitor and meet these needs via the RFEP monitoring process. Parents may also have questions about how the school's instructional environments and supports will continue to benefit the student's academic success or the benefits of remote vs. in-person learning. For this reason, it can be productive to ensure that parent consultations involve everyone who knows and will be supporting the student in the coming school year: parents, decision-makers, as well as all relevant teachers and support staff.

Considerations Around Criterion 4 for the 2020–21 School Year

In a letter to the field dated July 1, 2020, the CDE provided the following COVID-19 reclassification guidance for Criterion 4:

  • For all grade levels, LEAs can use the most recent local assessments or the Smarter Balanced Summative English language arts assessments.

Because of COVID-19, it is likely that many LEAs will not use their currently established standards for Criterion 4 in the 2020–21 school year because Smarter Balanced and/or LEA local assessments were not administered to all students. If it is not possible to use the same process or instrument as in previous years, LEAs should keep in mind that:

  • Education Code Section 313(f)(4) calls for a comparison of student performance in basic skills against an empirically established range of performance in basic skills based on the performance of English proficient students of the same age, and that
  • California regulations—5 California Code of Regulations sections 11303 (Reclassification) and 11308[c][6] (Advisory Committee)—specify that any local reclassification criteria must be reviewed by a school district committee on programs and services for English learner students, such as the District English Learner Advisory Committee.

In light of the law and regulations, LEAs that cannot use their current instruments or standards for Criterion 4 will need to provide empirical evidence to support their current selection of assessments and the range of performance for 2020–21, including approval from the school district committee on programs and services for English learners.

LEAs also have been advised that local assessments can be used to identify English learners who meet academic measures indicating they are ready to be reclassified. Scores and performance information from locally administered assessments and other measures used to meet Criterion 4 should be used in a similar fashion to Criteria 2 and 3—as constructive information to further inform supports for the student during future RFEP monitoring, but not as a barrier to reclassification.

Letters to the Field

COVID-19 Reclassification Guidance for 2019–20 and Fall Administration (July 1, 2020)
This letter provides guidance regarding ELPAC testing and reclassifying students from English learner to fluent English proficient status for 2019–20.

Letter to Local Educational Agencies Regarding the Monitoring of Reclassified Students (December 20, 2019)
This letter reminds local educational agencies about requirements of monitoring reclassified students.

Reclassification Guidance for 2019–20 (September 2, 2019)
This letter provides guidance to local educational agencies regarding reclassifying students from English learner to fluent English proficient status.

Updated Letter to Local Educational Agencies Regarding Reclassification Guidance for 2018–19 (January 18, 2019)
This letter updates the guidance previously provided to local educational agencies regarding reclassifying students from English learner to fluent English proficient status.

Letter to Local Educational Agencies Regarding Interim Reclassification Guidance for 2018–19 (September 14, 2018)
This letter updates to interim guidance provided to local educational agencies regarding reclassifying students from English learner to fluent English proficient status.

Letter to Local Educational Agencies Regarding Interim Reclassification Guidance for 2017–18 (January 2, 2018)
This letter updates to interim guidance provided to local educational agencies regarding reclassifying students from English learner to fluent English proficient status

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Additional Resources

COVID-19 Assessment FAQs
This link provides frequently asked questions related to COVID-19 and assessment.

Reclassification FAQs
The above link provides frequently asked questions regarding English learner reclassification.

English Learners Resources Web Page
The above link provides FAQs regarding English learners in California and appropriate teacher authorizations and links to websites with information about developing programs for linguistically and culturally diverse students.

Federal Program Monitoring (FPM) Instrument California Department of Education (CDE) Web Page
The California Department of Education Monitoring Tool (CMT) is a web-based system, which allows LEAs to facilitate a response to state and federal requirements for program monitoring.

U.S. Department of Education English Learner Toolkit Web Page External link opens in new window or tab.
Office of English Language Acquisition’s EL Tool Kit was published in 2015 as a companion to support the January 7, 2015 Dear Colleague Letter External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) produced by the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and the Department of Justice, outlining legal obligations for English learner students. Some chapters of the tool kit have been updated related to the Every Student Succeeds Act External link opens in new window or tab. of 2015 (ESSA).

Questions:   Language Policy & Leadership Office | 916-319-0845
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, April 28, 2021