Get to know the DOE Team: Meet Megan Dichter

Maine DOE team member Megan Dichter is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Megan in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Workforce Development Coordinator for Adult Education, so I support adult education programs in offering industry recognized credentials and workforce training to adult education participants. I am also the CASAS (the math and reading assessment used by Adult Education programs) state trainer.  Additionally, I have a background in teaching English to non-native speakers and also support adult education programs working with students learning to speak English.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the variety of my work and that it allows me to continue to teach (in the form of training,) and learn daily. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing Adult Education team with whom I work.

How or why did you decide on this career?

After college I volunteered with an organization called WorldTeach and spent two years in Thailand teaching at a University. That experience helped shape my career path and I returned to the U.S and enrolled in an M.Ed program- the rest is history.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I am an avid photographer and spend a lot of my free time doing documentary photography. I love the challenge of visual storytelling.

MORE Webinars to Assist with Data Submission!

To assist those who are responsible for the important task of reporting data to the Department of Education, the DOE Data Team will be holding two webinars on Tuesday September 24th.

  1. English Learners (EL) Webinar September 24th from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM

This webinar will focus on required data submissions for students who are English Learners. If you are tasked with submitting student data for English Learners, you are encouraged to attend. If you have any questions, comments or concerns in regards to this webinar, please do not hesitate to contact us at the MEDMS helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@Maine.gov  or (207) 624-6896.

Registration URL:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8362249225049745165

Webinar ID:  597-624-635

  1. Private School Oct. 1st Resident Enrollment Report (EF-M-13) Webinar September 24th from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM

This webinar will focus on the Oct. 1st Resident Enrollment Report (EM-F-13), which should be completed and submitted by Private Schools. If you are tasked with submitting the Oct. 1st Resident Enrollment Report (EM-F-13), you are encouraged to attend. If you have any questions, comments or concerns in regards to this webinar, please do not hesitate to contact us at the MEDMS helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@Maine.gov  or (207) 624-6896.

Registration URL: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5395788843542832909

Webinar ID:  646-963-635

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: Legal Requirements to Provide English Language Acquisition Services to Students Who are English Learners

Administrative Letter: Legal Requirements to Provide English Language Acquisition Services to Students who are English Learners

Administrative Letter: #27         
Policy Code: IHBEA
TO: Public School Administrators
FROM: Pender Makin, Commissioner
DATE: August 22, 2019
SUBJECT: The legal requirements for providing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services to students who are English learners

Topics included in this letter:

  • Identification of students who are English learners
  • Exit criteria from ESOL services
  • Delivery of ESOL services
  • Administration of ACCESS for ELLs®
  • Enrollment of students who are immigrants and international students
  • Rights of students who are English learners to education
  • Students who are English learners and Special Education

Identification of Students Who are English Learners (EL)

It is a federal requirement that all students who are English learners be identified within 30 days of enrollment from the beginning of the school year, or within two weeks of enrollment during the school year.

Each School Administrative Unit (SAU) must administer the Maine Department of Education’s Language Use Survey to the parent/guardian of every student, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, enrolling in the SAU for the first time. The Language Use Survey must be included in the SAU’s enrollment packet or online enrollment system. If a student changes schools within a SAU, a new Language Use Survey is not required.

The Language Use Survey is available for download on the Maine Department of Education website   in English and 25 of Maine’s most commonly spoken languages. Parents/guardians are entitled to complete the Language Use Survey in their preferred language. SAUs must provide translation/interpretation services upon request.

The purpose of the Language Use Survey is to identify potential students who are English learners. The Language Use Survey decision tree provides guidance on its use. If any question is answered with a language other than English, the student should be administered an English language proficiency screener. (Note that Sign Language is not a qualifying language for English learner status. However, if a student uses Sign Language and an additional language other than English, the student may be eligible for English learner status.) See the resource and policy guide, Serving Maine’s Students who are English Learners, for information about the required screeners and identification thresholds, by grade level.

Students who were screened for EL status but did not initially qualify may be rescreened at any time if a potential need for ESOL support becomes apparent.

Exit Criteria from ESOL Services

In order to exit from ESOL services, a student must demonstrate English language proficiency. The Maine Department of Education defines English language proficiency as an overall composite proficiency level of 4.5 on ACCESS for ELLs®. No other measure qualifies a student who is an English learner for exit. While a district may choose to continue to provide language support services to students who have demonstrated English language proficiency, such students are no longer classified as English learners and are no longer administered ACCESS for ELLs® (or Alternate ACCESS, if applicable).

Students who are English learners with an IEP exemption from a domain or domains on ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS are eligible to exit based on their performance on the non-exempt domains. The Maine Department of Education calculates an overall composite proficiency level for such students, utilizing a score of 4.5 on the exempt domain(s) and weighting domains according to WIDA’s overall composite score weighted formula.

Monitoring and Reentry into EL Status

Per federal guidance, SAUs are to monitor the performance of former students who are English learners for at least two years after exiting. If, during the two years of monitoring, or at any time thereafter, a former student who is an English learner shows a potential need for continued ESOL support, the student must be rescreened with the WIDA Screener Online to determine English learner status. If a student scores below the state-defined identification threshold, he/she must be reentered into English learner status, must receive ESOL services, and must take ACCESS for ELLs (or Alternate ACCESS, if applicable) until exiting.

Delivery of ESOL Services

An SAU is required to determine the components of an effective English language acquisition program tailored to the needs of each student, which may include, but is not limited to, tutoring, additional classroom support, materials, sheltered instruction, professional development for content area teachers, or other strategies (Office for Civil Rights December 1985 Title VI policy memorandum, Title VI Language Minority Compliance Procedures).

The Maine Department of Education requires the English language support program for a student who is an English learner to be provided or overseen by a 660 ESOL-endorsed teacher. (See 34 Code of Federal Regulations C.F.R. Section 100.3 (b)(ii)). All students who are English learners must be provided with English language support services that enable them to meaningfully access the curriculum in order to meet grade-level standards. English language development and content area knowledge are to be acquired simultaneously, rather than consecutively. In other words, English language proficiency is not a prerequisite to participate in mainstream classes. If students who are English learners receive services that remove them from content area classes (such as a newcomer program or pull-out services), any academic deficits that result must be remedied so the student remains on track with his/her non-EL peers academically.

English language support services are to be provided in a way that minimizes the isolation of students who are English learners from the general student population and encourages students who are English learners to participate in all aspects of the school program, including advanced coursework, career and technical education, gifted and talented programs, and extracurricular activities. Students who are English learners are entitled to ESOL services until exiting by demonstrating English language proficiency on ACCESS for ELLs® (or Alternate ACCESS, if applicable).

Administration of ACCESS for ELLs® or Alternate ACCESS

Federal and State laws require that the English language proficiency of all students who are English learners be measured annually as a component of accountability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). If a student is identified as an English learner, that student must be administered ACCESS for ELLs (or Alternate ACCESS, if applicable) annually until the student demonstrates English language proficiency. The Maine Department of Education defines English language proficiency as a composite proficiency level of 4.5 on ACCESS for ELLs or level P2 on Alternate ACCESS. Failure of all students who are English learners to participate in the annual administration of ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS may affect ESEA Title IA funding.

State law requires that ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS be administered only by an individual trained it its administration. It is not required that this individual be an ESOL-endorsed teacher. However, only an ESOL-endorsed teacher is qualified to design, oversee, and implement an English language support program, which includes the interpretation of ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS results.

If parents/guardians have questions about the purpose of ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS, direct them to ACCESS for ELLs: FAQs for Parents/Guardians.

Enrollment of Immigrants and International Students

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, among other factors, by public schools. SAUs are required under federal law to enroll children regardless of citizenship or immigration status (Plyler vs. Doe). This applies  equally to students who are immigrants and international students attending a Maine public school as an exchange student or tuition-paying student. All students, including those who are immigrants and international students, must be screened for English learner status. Any student who is identified as an English learner, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, is entitled to ESOL services and must be administered ACCESS for ELLs (or Alternate ACCESS, if applicable) annually. International/exchange students are not exempt from Title I required state academic assessments. In Maine, recently arrived English learners who have been enrolled in a U.S. school for less than 12 months are exempt from one administration of the state’s English language arts assessment only. See the

SAUs are not permitted to discourage the enrollment of children who are undocumented immigrants by asking about their immigration status, denying enrollment to those with international birth certificates, or denying enrollment to children whose parents decline to provide their social security numbers or race and ethnicity information. Federal regulations allow schools to ask for children’s social security numbers to be used as student identifiers. However, they should inform parents of the purpose and that disclosure of such numbers is voluntary. Schools may not deny enrollment if parents refuse to provide a child’s social security number. SAUs may require proof that a child lives within SAU boundaries, which may include lease agreements, utility bills, or other documents. However, schools may not ask parents about a child’s immigration status to establish residency. SAUs may require proof of a child’s age, but they may not bar enrollment because a child has an international birth certificate or no birth certificate. See this fact sheet from the Departments of Justice and Education for more details about acceptable documentation requests.

Rights of Students who are English Learners to Education

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains the foundation of the legal rights of aa student who is an English learner. Lau v. Nichols confirms that all students who are English learners are entitled to meaningful access to the curriculum. If a parent refuses ESOL services this must be documented, but parental refusal does not release the school or SAU from its responsibility to provide meaningful education to students who are English learners. If a student who is an English learner cannot make academic progress without ESOL services, the student has a right to ESOL services, even if a parent refuses. Parental consent is not required to administer an English language proficiency screener or ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS. Under State law SAUs are responsible for administering ACCESS for ELLs® to all students who are English learners, regardless of parental consent (20-A M.R.S. §6209(1-A)).

Students who are English Learners and Special Education

Students may qualify for, and have legal entitlement to, both ESOL and special education services. Appropriate screening is required to determine students’ eligibility for each type of service. Depending on a student’s learning disability and Individual Education Plan (IEP), universal testing tools or accommodations may be needed in order to measure English language proficiency. When evaluating a student who is an English learner for learning disabilities, screening must be linguistically and culturally appropriate. It is advisable to measure a student’s skills in the student’s primary language in order to clarify whether challenges are due to a learning disability or English language development.

Students who are English learners should not be placed in a special education program unless their exceptionality is well-documented, and appropriate procedures for special education services have been followed. English learner status is not a disability and is not covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Maine Unified Special Education Regulations (MUSER).

For students who are English learners with IEP teams, the United States Department of Education has provided the following guidance:

“It is important that IEP Teams for ELs with disabilities include persons with expertise in second language acquisition and other professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, who understand how to differentiate between limited English proficiency and a disability. The participation of these individuals on the IEP Team is essential in order to develop appropriate academic and functional goals for the child and provide specially designed instruction and the necessary related services to meet these goals.”

Students who are English learners with learning disabilities are eligible for exit from ESOL services when they demonstrate English language proficiency by achieving an overall composite proficiency level of 4.5 on ACCESS for ELLs (or level P2 on Alternate ACCESS, if applicable).

If you have questions, or would like further information regarding serving students who are English learners, please contact April Perkins, ESOL/Bilingual Programs, at april.perkins@maine.gov or (207)624-6627.

Brunswick Community Support Group is Working Hard to Welcome Refugee Families

This article was written by Maine DOE Intern Simon Handelman in collaboration with community members from the Emergency Action Network (TEAN) in Brunswick.

When Sarah Singer, Teresa Gillis, and other community leaders founded The Emergency Action Network (TEAN), they were responding to the rising poverty and homelessness afflicting students at Brunswick Schools. TEAN worked with teachers and administrators in Brunswick schools to identify the needs of struggling students and families. Once a specific need was clear to TEAN, they utilized the Yard Sale feature on Facebook to collect donations or, members of TEAN purchased the necessary item outright and delivered it to the Superintendent’s office.

Each fall TEAN members visit faculty in all four Brunswick schools. They connect with educators and identify needs the taskforce is equipped to address. When a child needed running shoes to participate in gym class, TEAN got those shoes to the student. Singer expressed how happy the recipient was once he was able to participate in activities with the rest of his class. When mobile home park Bay Bridge Estates experienced well failures, TEAN delivered a U-Hall filled with Poland Springs bottled water to the residents. These examples of TEAN’s excellent work explain Singer’s classification of the organization as a “catch-all safety net” and a “crisis response group.”

In recent weeks, the organization has committed itself to assisting families of asylum seekers in Brunswick. Erin Mangalam and Singer, both on the board of directors for TEAN, use their own multi-lingual skills to connect families to the resources they need. Maggy Jansson, another director, is using her background as a home visiting pediatric nurse to help families access healthcare services. However, TEAN understands they do not have the necessary background to provide optimal assistance, for this reason the taskforce pushed the town of Brunswick to hire a Cultural Broker. Nsiona Nguizani has been working in the Maine immigrant community for several years. His job is to break down linguistic and cultural barriers so support groups like TEAN or Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) can more efficiently meet the needs of these new Brunswick community members.

Support groups in Brunswick learned from Musalo Chitam at the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition that newcomer families often travel thousands of miles over the course of several months. These families know how to be independent–they just need to become oriented in their new home. In response to this message, Mangalam and Dana Bateman (another TEAN volunteer) collected bikes for the families. TEAN does not have the resources to buy every family a car, but they can mobilize the community to get a significant number of bikes for families. Once the bikes were collected, Bruno Inacio translated Kris Haralson’s bike safety training from English to Portuguese so as many people as possible could understand the information.

TEAN is working on many projects, and more information can be found on their website and Facebook page. Moreover, TEAN is just one of many support groups working hard to help their neighbors, new and old. Similar efforts are being undertaken in Topsham by Mt. Ararat TEAN, and in Freeport by Freeport Friends. Singer says the goal was to build a “totally replicable model.” She says that it is necessary to understand that needs are different in each community. In some towns like Brunswick, the role of support groups is changing rapidly. However, dedicated people with open minds can alleviate some of the burdens for families, students, and teachers by building networks like TEAN in their own communities.

Guidance on Determining English Learner Status

Students who are English learners (ELs) are considered former ELs when they reach an overall composite proficiency score of 4.5 on ACCESS for ELLs or level P2 on Alternate ACCESS. Former ELs are fully mainstreamed, no longer receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, and are no longer administered ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS each year.  

In the past, districts were required to closely monitor the performance of former ELs for a minimum of two years, per federal guidance, in order to ensure that they were able to succeed academically without ESOL services. If a former EL demonstrated a continued need for ESOL services, districts were required under civil rights law to provide such services, but students did not officially reenter EL status in the state student data system.  

Starting in school year 2019-2020, students who were formerly ELs may be eligible to officially re-enter EL status if they demonstrate a need for continued English language learning support. To determine if a former EL needs to be reentered into EL status, districts must have a clear protocol for monitoring during the two-year intensive monitoring period and beyond. To effectively monitor, all general education teachers must have an awareness of how language learning needs may manifest in the classroom, as well as an understanding of how non-linguistic factors may affect student performance. To assist districts in developing a strong monitoring protocol, the US Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition has produced Chapter 8 of the EL Tool Kit: Tools and Resources for Monitoring and Exiting English Learners from EL Programs and Services. It includes sample monitoring forms, information about digital monitoring systems, and a self-assessment. 

When a continued need for ESOL services is suspected, teachers should refer the student to the ESOL teacher/coordinator for rescreening. The student should be administered the WIDA Screener Online. When a former EL scores below an overall proficiency level of 4.5, the district must submit an online request to officially reenter the student into EL status in the state student data system. Note that students who were screened for EL status upon enrollment, but did not qualify at that time, may be rescreened at any time if a potential need for ESOL services becomes apparent. 

Essential Provisions and Services (EPS) funding for the next school year is based on the previous school year’s October 1 enrollment counts. Students who are reentered into EL status are eligible for an additional weighted EPS funding amount, like all other students who are ELs. 

If you have any questions about this notice or would like any assistance, please contact April Perkins at april.perkins@maine.gov or (207)624-6627.