Administrative Letter: Legal Requirements to Provide English Language Acquisition Services to Students who are Multilingual Learners* (Revised 6.21.23)

Updated Administrative Letter #1: June 21, 2023 

Administrative Letter: Legal Requirements to Provide English Language Acquisition Services to Students who are Multilingual Learners* (Revised 6.21.23) 

Administrative Letter: #27
Policy Code: IHBEA
TO: Public School Administrators
FROM: Pender Makin, Commissioner
DATE: August 22, 2019, Revised September 15, 2021, Revised June 21, 2023 

SUBJECT: The legal requirements for providing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services to students who are Multilingual Learners.  

Topics included in this letter: 

  • Identification of students who are Multilingual 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 Multilingual Learners to education 
  • Students who are Multilingual Learners and Special Education 


Identification of Students Who are Multilingual Learners (ML) 

It is a federal requirement that all students who are multilingual learners be identified within 30 days of enrollment from the beginning of the school year. For students enrolling at the start of the school year, parents/guardians must be notified of their child’s English learner status within the same 30-day period. After the start of the school year, SAUs must notify parents/guardians within two weeks of their child’s identification. 

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 in English and 25 of Maine’s most 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 multilingual 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 Multilingual Learner Identification, for information about the required screeners and identification thresholds, by grade level. 

Students who were screened for ML 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 

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 a multilingual learner for exit. While a SAU may choose to continue to provide language support services to students who have demonstrated English language proficiency, such students are no longer classified as multilingual learners and are no longer administered ACCESS for ELLs® (or Alternate ACCESS, if applicable). 

Students who are multilingual 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 ML Status 

Per federal guidance, SAUs are to monitor the performance of formerly identified students who are multilingual 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 a multilingual 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, they must be reentered into ML status, must receive ESOL services, and must take ACCESS for ELLs (or Alternate ACCESS, if applicable) until exiting. 

Delivery of ESOL Services 

A 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 a multilingual learner to be provided or overseen by a Maine ESOL-endorsed teacher (endorsement 660). (See 34 Code of Federal Regulations C.F.R. Section 100.3 (b)(ii)). All students who are multilingual learners must be provided with English language support services that enable them to meaningfully access the curriculum 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 multilingual 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-ML peers academically. 

English language support services are to be provided in a way that minimizes the isolation of students who are multilingual learners from the general student population and encourages students who are multilingual 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 multilingual 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 multilingual learners be measured annually as a component of accountability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). If a student is identified as a multilingual 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 to have all students who are multilingual learners 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. 

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 multilingual learner status. Any student who is identified as a multilingual 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 state academic assessments required by Title I. In Maine, recently arrived multilingual 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 Maine Comprehensive Assessment System site for further questions and information. 

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 Multilingual Learners to Education 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains the foundation of the legal rights of aa student who is a Multilingual Learner. Lau v. Nichols confirms that all students who are multilingual 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 multilingual learners. If a student who is a multilingual 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 multilingual learners, regardless of parental consent (20-A M.R.S. §6209(1-A)). 

Students who are Multilingual Learners and identified to receive Special Education funding 

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 an Individual Education Plan (IEP), universal testing tools or accommodations may be needed to measure English language proficiency. When evaluating a student who is a multilingual 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 to clarify whether challenges are due to a learning disability or English language development. 

Students who are multilingual 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. Multilingual 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). The Maine DOE ESOL and Special Services teams have collaborated to develop a guidance manual on Identifying and Serving Multilingual Learners with Disabilities. We are hopeful that it will serve as a useful resource as school teams work together to make determinations about a student’s status and program of services. 

For students who are multilingual learners with IEPss, the United States Department of Education has provided the following guidance: 

“It is important that IEP Teams for MLs 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 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 multilingual 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 multilingual learners, please contact Rebecca Carey, or Robin Fleck, , ESOL/Bilingual Program Consultants. 

*Formerly referred to as English Learners. Please note that federal language still uses English Learners to refer to Multilingual Learners. 

Administrative Letter: Guidance for Expulsion, Suspension, and Modified Schedules in Public Preschool Programs

Administrative Letter: #2
Policy Code: JKE, JKD
To: Public School Administrators
Date: December 14, 2022
Subject: Guidance regarding suspension, expulsion and modified schedules in public preschool programs

This guidance is offered by the Maine Department of Education to clarify suspension, expulsion, and modified schedules as they apply to students attending public preschool programs. While the provision of public preschool programs is not mandated in Maine, public preschool is strongly encouraged. When offered, public preschool is intended to serve all eligible children, to the extent possible, including learners with a variety of needs. Children who attend high quality preschool programs have an opportunity to build social emotional skills, strengthen executive functioning skills and have a stronger start to school (Zinsser, et al, 2022). To realize these benefits, children must remain in school.  Once enrolled in public preschool programs, in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. §1001(8-A), children may not be unenrolled or expelled. Additionally, if a school administrative unit (SAU) is unable to serve all 4-year-olds who wish to enroll in public preschool, protocols to determine enrollment decisions which result in preschool populations with demographics that reflect the SAU’s K-12 demographics are strongly encouraged.

Suspension and Modified Schedules in General Education 

Suspension of 4-year-olds attending public preschool programs is permitted only in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. § 1001(9) which specifies that a school board may not authorize a principal to issue an out-of-school suspension to a student who is enrolled in grade 5 or below except as provided under subsection 9-A (federal Gun Free Schools Act) or unless the principal determines that there is an imminent danger of serious physical injury to the student or others and less restrictive interventions would be ineffective. An out-of-school suspension for a student who is enrolled in grade 5 or below may not exceed 3 days. Additionally, SAUs cannot unilaterally determine that a child attend public preschool on a modified schedule (e.g., reduced school day, reduced school week).  Parents/caregivers must understand the reason(s) for consideration of a modified schedule, and they must be involved in the decision-making process and agree to the modified schedule before it is implemented. Consider a modified schedule as an interim intervention in a multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) plan only in situations where multiple accommodations and interventions have been implemented, but safety remains a concern.

Suspension and Expulsion for Children with Disabilities 

In accordance with Federal and State law, a child may not be excluded from enrollment in a public preschool program based solely on the presence of a disability.  Enrolled children who are referred to Child Development Services (CDS) based on program concerns regarding the child’s development or behavior must be considered a child with a disability and afforded the same rights as their K-12 peers, until the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team makes its determinations.

The Maine Department of Education recognizes that to support challenging behaviors and maintain safe environments for all students and staff, educators need training and resources.  Please refer to the list below for helpful contacts and resources.

Please contact Nicole Madore, Early Childhood Specialist at 446-3967 and, or Dr. Roberta Lucas, State Director of Child Development Services/619 Coordinator at 207-624-6621 and, with questions or comments about this guidance.


United States Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension Policies in Early Childhood Settings

Maine DOE’s Early Learning Office Hours for Public Preschool

Maine’s Child Development Services System (Part B 619)

Maine Department of Education’s Office of School and Student Supports

Maine Early Childhood Consultation Partnership 

Maine DOE’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: Local and State School Bus Bid and Purchase

Administrative Letter: 1
Policy Code: EEAEB
To: Public School Administrators, Business Managers, Transportation Directors, and School Bus Vendors
Date: 12/09/2022
Subject: Local and State School Bus Bid and Purchase

To assist and support school administrative units (SAUs) in their work to purchase school buses, the Maine Department of Education is providing clarification concerning the process to bid and purchase school buses.

This administrative letter replaces Administrative Letter #24 (2019). Administrative Letter #24 is no longer in effect and does not reflect the position of the Department of Education.

For a school bus purchase to be eligible for State subsidy, per 20-A M.R.S. § 5401(15) the school administrative unit (SAU) must:

(1) purchase the bus from the bidder selected through the State of Maine Division of Procurement school bus bid Request for Quotations (RFQ) for bus Type and capacity, or
(2) upon request, provide to the Department documentation that demonstrates the purchase was the result of a competitive bidding process conducted by the SAU following 20-A M.R.S § 5402 bid procedures or was made in the most economical manner consistent with the welfare and safety of students in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. § 5401(14).

For school buses purchased by a SAU when the SAU is not seeking subsidy, the SAU must still engage in competitive bidding, or make its purchase in the most economical manner, as outlined above.

SAU use of the Maine Department of Education’s School Bus Bid and Purchase System (SBBPS) is voluntary. SAUs are encouraged to contact Robert Susi at with any questions about the SBBPS, transportation programs, or policy questions.

Webinar: Online Safety Guidance and Resources for K-12 Schools (February 24)

Please join the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse on February 24 at 3:00 PM EST for an informational webinar on online safety featuring guidance and resources for kindergarten through grade 12 schools.

The session will feature guest speakers from the Homeland Security Investigations Cyber Crimes Center (C3) and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Presenters will provide an overview of how to make the internet a safer place for students and protect children from crimes of victimization.

Schools, educators, and parents can help build resilience against online violence, as well as foster digital ecosystems that are safe and secure for students. Through promoting online safety practices and improving digital literacy and critical thinking skills, the K-12 community can help reduce certain risk factors among youth.

The discussion will feature additional school safety-related resources available through, as well as a Q&A session.

  • When: February 24, 2022, 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM EST
  • Where: Adobe Connect (access link to be provided one day in advance of the event)
  • For: K-12 School Superintendents and Principals; School and District Administrators; Teachers and School Staff; School Counselors and School Psychologists; Emergency Management; School Resource Officers; Parents
  • Registration:

If you have any questions, please contact the School Safety team at


Administrative Letter: 28
Policy Code: IHBEA
To: School Administrative Unit (SAU) Administrators, Special Purpose Private School Administrators and Public Regional Program Administrators
From: Pender Makin, Commissioner
Date:  November 24, 2021
Subject: IEP Requirements for Out-of-Unit Placements

In Maine, before an IEP Team decides to place a student with a disability in an out-of-unit placement, it shall initiate and convene an IEP meeting to develop an Individualized Education Program for the student. The IEP developed will reflect the Team’s program design to meet the student’s needs and will include goals for the student’s growth in the areas of concern. The IEP Team shall discuss and document the program components of a placement that will support the IEP developed at this meeting (MUSER IX.3.H). The sending SAU has the administrative responsibility for the education of a student with a disability who has been placed in an out-of-unit placement.  Special Purpose Private Schools (SPPS) and other out-of-unit entities must ensure compliance with IDEA, utilizing the IEP team process and maintaining “stay put” in the event of a dispute (34 CFR §300.518).

The Department is concerned that some School Administrative Districts, SPPS, and Public Regional Programs believe that the language of MUSER XI.3.I allows a receiving out-of-unit placement to remove a student with a disability from school for any reason, without utilizing the IEP Team process, and without maintaining ‘stay put” in the event of a dispute. MUSER IX.3.I requires a receiving placement to ensure compliance with “these rules and the Individuals with Disabilities Act.” While the Department views this language to cover the requirements for a change of placement, and for stay put, it is clear that some School Administrative Districts, SPPS, and Public Regional Programs have not operated with this understanding.

After consulting with counsel, the Department has determined that SPPS and other out-of-unit placements are not in compliance with IDEA when they terminate a student’ s placement without going through the IEP process. Maine will enforce the federal standard of using the IEP process in the change of placement. Effective immediately, All SAUs must notify the SPPS and out-of-unit placements that in order to continue these placements, they must abide by the federal standard and provide FAPE to eligible students who are placed at SPPS and other out-of-unit placements. The MUSER reference can be found here:

MUSER IX.3.I Revision of Out-of-Unit Placements

For more information, contact Erin Frazier, State Director of Special Education Birth to 22, at