Updated Language Use Survey Now Available

Through the concerted efforts and dedication of our English Learner Advisory Council, and with feedback from our colleagues in the field, the Department of Education has refined our statewide Language Use Survey. We believe these minor changes have created a more quality document that will aid in ensuring valid identification.

As part of our consistent, statewide process for identifying English learners, as is required by ESSA, all Maine districts are asked to administer this new and improved Maine DOE Language Use Survey to the parents/guardians of students enrolling in the district for the first time.

For convenience and cost-savings, the updated Language Use Survey is available on the Maine DOE website in English, and 25 other languages. We have also created a short video to assist those who are administering the Language Use Survey and encourage others, such as building administrators and classroom teachers, to familiarize themselves with the survey and how students are classified as English learners.

For guidance on English learner identification, please refer to the resource and policy guide, Serving Maine’s English Learners, or if you have any questions, please contact:

April Perkins
Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III
Office: (207)624-6627
Cell: (207)441-9043

Administrative Letter: Clarification on Requirement to Ensure Parents’ Meaningful Access to IEP Information

Administrative Letter: #23
Policy Code:  BGE
To: Public School Administrators, Special Ed. Directors, EL Coordinators/Directors, and ESOL Teachers
From: Pender Makin, Commissioner
Date:  March 12, 2019
Subject: Clarification on Requirement to Ensure Parents’ Meaningful Access to IEP Information

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees parents’ right to receive communication from their children’s schools in a language they can understand. The US Department of Education has provided guidance (PDF) clarifying that, “State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) have flexibility in determining what mix of oral and written translation services may be necessary and reasonable for communicating the required information to parents with limited English proficiency.”

For parents of students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), LEAs must ensure that parents are able to understand the proceedings of the IEP meeting and access the IEP document as needed.

In a 2007 letter (PDF) to Conway Public Schools in Arkansas, the Office of Special Education (OSEP) indicated that, “while providing written translations of IEP documents is not required under IDEA, we believe in some circumstances it may help to show that a parent has been fully informed of the services his or her child will be receiving.”

A 2016 Dear Colleague Letter (PDF) from OSEP states that, “Under Title VI, all vital documents, including a student’s IEP, must be accessible to Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents, but that does not necessarily mean that all vital documents must be translated for every language in the district. For example, a timely and complete oral interpretation or translated summary of a vital document might suffice in some circumstances. A district must, however, be prepared to provide timely and complete translated IEPs to provide meaningful access to the IEP and the parental rights that attach to it. This is because a parent needs meaningful access to the IEP not just during the IEP meeting, but also across school years to monitor the child’s progress and ensure that IEP services are provided.”

This notice does not serve as legal advice, and LEAs should consult legal staff and/or the Office for Civil Rights for guidance pertaining to their specific contexts.

The Maine Department of Education would like to acknowledge and thank Maine’s special education directors, administrators, and educators for ensuring federal and state regulations for educating students with special needs are met, and for their ongoing dedication to the students and families that these processes serve.

For further information about translation/interpretation please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III at (207) 624-6627 or april.perkins@maine.gov. For further information about supporting students with an IEP, please contact Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services at (207) 624-6713.

Guidance Regarding Automated Translation/Interpretation Services

As Maine districts have experienced increasing numbers of students and parents who speak languages other than English, there has also been an increase in the availability of machine or automated translation/interpretation software and apps. While these tools may seem like a convenient (and oftentimes free) way to meet a district’s civil rights obligations for communicating with parents, they have not yet reached the level of accuracy necessary to serve as a substitute for a qualified human translator/interpreter. Meaningful communication with parents, including parents whose children have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), is not only a civil rights requirement, but it also serves to strengthen family engagement and promote positive relationships between families and schools.

A 2015 guidance document from the US Department of Justice and US Department of Education clarifies that even a bilingual person without appropriate training cannot be used by a school to translate/interpret for parents. Whether for the vital communications listed in this guidance document or for more casual interactions, best practice is always to utilize trained professionals, such as through a phone interpretation service or translation/interpretation agency.

For a list of translation/interpretation providers, please refer to the Maine Department of Education website. For parent notices required under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Maine Department of Education has partnered with TransACT to give districts free access to notices in 17 languages.

For further information about translation/interpretation please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III at (207) 624-6627 or april.perkins@maine.gov. For further information about supporting students with an IEP, please contact Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services at (207) 624-6713.

Recording & Materials from Presentation About ESSA & Report Cards

The Maine Department of Education held a presentation on Monday, December 10 about the details of Maine’s Model of School Support under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which includes the release of the new, user-friendly, public Report Cards in early January. Below is a link to a recording of the session and links to the PowerPoint Presentation, in addition to all of the handouts from the presentation.

Further questions about Maine’s ESSA Plan, Maine’s Model of School Support, and the Report Cards should be directed to Acting Director of Learning Systems, Janette Kirk Janette.Kirk@maine.gov or ESEA Federal Programs & School Turnaround Director Chelsey Fortin-Trimble Chelsey.A.Fortin@maine.gov.

What Is Progress in English Language Proficiency? #success4ME

Maine defines English language proficiency (ELP) as sufficient skill in English necessary to meaningfully access the curriculum. As part of Maine’s Model of School Support, part of Maine’s rollout of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this indicator of school success focuses on English learners and measures the progress they make toward English language proficiency each school year. ESSA requires that each state include an indicator that gauges, “progress in achieving English language proficiency as defined by the State and measured by the assessments within a State-determined timeline for all English learners.”

What does this look like in Maine?

English learners are students who have a primary or home language other than English and are in the process of learning English. Around 3% of Maine’s students are English learners and their schools support them in learning English to succeed academically. They may receive English language support services inside or outside of their regular classes, through programs specifically for English language development, or through a variety of other supports. It usually takes 4-7 years for an English learner to become proficient in English, but this can vary depending on many factors.

Each year, English learners are administered ACCESS for ELLs, an assessment that measures a student’s ability to listen, speak, read, and write in English. A student’s overall score ranges from 1.0-6.0. In Maine, English language proficiency is defined as level 4.5, so the progress in English language proficiency indicator measures how much progress a student makes each year toward reaching level 4.5. A school’s score for progress in English language proficiency is based on the average percentage made towards the annual target for each student, where there are at least ten (10) English learners.

School level descriptors for progress in ELP is as follows:

Emerging Developing Meeting Excelling
The average progress towards the students’ annual target is less than 65% The average progress towards the students’ annual target is between 65% and 80% The average progress towards the students’ annual target is between 80% and 95% The average progress towards the students’ annual target is greater than 95%

How progress in ELP will be presented on the report card:


In the example provided below, there are less than 5 students who are English learners and therefore the data has been suppressed (notated by a *).