Administrative Letter: Updated Remote Learning English Learner Identification Procedures

Administrative Letter: #28         
Policy Code: IHBEA
TO: Public School Administrators
FROM: Pender Makin, Commissioner
DATE: August 5,2020
SUBJECT: Updated Remote Learning English Learner Identification Procedures

The Maine Department of Education has developed a revised process for the identification of students as English learners during the COVID-19 pandemic. This revised process will remain in effect during any period when there is an interruption in face-to-face school operations as a result of the pandemic. Federal law requires that all English learners be identified within thirty days of enrolling at the beginning of the school year, or within two weeks for students who enroll mid-year (Sections 1112[e][3] and 3113[b][2] of Elementary and Secondary Education Act).

Please note that English learner identifications made in other states are not recognized in Maine, and all newly-enrolling students must undergo the identification process required by the Maine Department of Education.

Under the previous provisional identification process provided by the Department of Education in response to the challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were screened for approximate level of English proficiency using a set of informal rubrics. Provisional English learner status did not require official English learner identification. However, under the new revised process, students must be officially identified as English learners in the student data system by inputting an EL Start Date. Any student who was identified using the provisional identification process previously in place must now be officially identified by adding an EL Start Date, which must be the date on which the informal screening occurred. It is essential that all students who are English learners have an EL Start Date by October 1, 2020, to ensure that accurate enrollment counts are used in the state funding formula.

In order to accommodate the varying needs of SAUs across the state, the new, revised identification procedure allows for SAUs to exercise discretion in determining which of the following screening methods is most appropriate for the specific circumstances of their communities at any given time.

Prior to administering an English language proficiency screener (whether face-to-face or remotely), schools must provide the Language Use Survey to the parent/guardian of each student to complete. The Language Use Survey may be mailed, emailed, or completed in-person, as appropriate. Note that some families may require translation and/or interpretation by a qualified professional in order to complete the Language Use Survey and/or the enrollment process as a whole, and these services must be provided by the SAU at no cost to the family.
All Language Use Surveys and English language proficiency screener score reports must be kept in students’ cumulative files.

Screening Method 1: Face-to-Face
If a SAU determines through consultation with various stakeholders (including school board, staff, and families) that face-to-face screening can be conducted safely, SAUs may opt to administer an English language proficiency screener per the usual identification policy. According to current CDC requirements for health and safety in schools, face masks/face shields, hand sanitation stations, frequent sanitizing of computers and other items and surfaces involved in screening, physical distancing, and use of COVID-19 symptom screening questions must be used.

If a parent/guardian or screener administrator is not comfortable with face-to-face screening due to concerns about virus transmission, it is advisable to offer remote screening as an alternative.

Screening Method 2: Remote
For students in grades K-12, screening may be conducted remotely (via phone or video call) using the WIDA Remote Screener. (For students in pre-K, please see the final section of this document.) Training for screener administrators can be found within the WIDA Secure Portal, and screening materials are available in WIDA Assessment Management System (AMS). If you do not yet have login credentials, please contact WIDA Client Services at  or 1-866-276-7735.

Students who perform at the “developing” level or below will be officially identified as English learners in the student data system and must receive English language acquisition support services. Students identified as English learners must also participate in Maine’s annual English language proficiency assessment ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS (when state-required assessment resumes as normal).

If a student performs at the “entering” or “emerging” level on the WIDA Remote Screener, no further validation of English learner status is required. However, when a student scores at the “developing” level, the student’s status must later be validated once face-to-face assessment is possible. There are two possible means of validation.

Validation Method 1: Face-to-Face Screening per Usual State Policy
When face-to-face screening can be safely conducted, a student must complete the regular screening assessment required by state policy. If the student performs below the identification threshold of 4.5, the student will remain in English learner status and no further steps are necessary. If the student performs above the identification threshold of 4.5, the SAU must submit a request for change in English learner identification to the Department. One request may be submitted for multiple students.

If requests for change in English learner identification are not received prior to the start of the ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS assessment window (January 11, 2021), all identified English learners must participate in the ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS, which will also serve as validation of the student’s English learner status.

Validation Method 2: ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS
ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS assessment window is scheduled to open January 11th and closes March 5th, 2021. If it is not possible to administer a face-to-face screening assessment prior the start of the assessment window, students’ English learner status will be validated via ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS.

Assessment results will be available to SAUs in early May of 2021, so any student in English learner status must continue to receive English language acquisition support services until student performance reports are received and proficiency is confirmed. Students who receive an overall composite proficiency level of 4.5 or higher (or level P2 on Alternate ACCESS) will be automatically exited from English learner status by the Department.

In the event that state-required assessments are suspended for the 2020-21 school year, students will remain in English learner status until such time as either validation method can be utilized.

For assessment-related questions, please contact Jodi Bossio-Smith, WIDA Assessments Coordinator, at

Identification of Students in Pre-Kindergarten
For students in pre-K, administering a remote screening assessment is not advised. Instead, as recent guidance from the US Department of Education permits, the Language Use Survey will be used to determine a student’s English learner status. If the Language Use Survey reflects a primary/home language other than English, the student will be temporarily identified as an English learner until validation is possible through an English language proficiency assessment (see validation methods 1 and 2 above). Educators must collaborate with parents/guardians in order to determine the type, frequency, and amount of English language acquisition support a student in pre-K will receive.

Re-entry of Former English Learners into English Learner Status
Students who have previously exited English learner status may experience a change in English proficiency level at any time. It is essential to monitor the performance of such students in order to ensure that any student who needs English language acquisition support services receives them.

Federal guidance recommends two years of intensive monitoring, but monitoring should continue throughout the rest of the student’s academic career. The federal guidance also includes recommendations on what the monitoring process should entail.

Given the unique and challenging learning conditions of the 2019-20 school year due to the pandemic, this fall it will be especially critical to monitor students’ performance and re-evaluate them for English learner status when appropriate, using the Maine Department of Education’s re-identification policy. It is recommended to allow a period of four to six weeks for students to re-acclimate to an English-speaking school environment before re-evaluating for English learner status.

If you have any questions about this notice, please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III, at

Free US ED Webinar: Vetting Apps and Education Technology

The Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) through the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) is planning an event that addresses Vetting Apps and Education Technology.

As technology and online learning has become an ingrained part of education for students at all grade levels and subjects, education leaders have had to learn to interpret vendor claims, identify education technology needs, and communicate those to groups, ranging from parents to teachers to the vendors themselves. Integral to planning is the need to protect students’ privacy.

This webinar will examine strategies educators can use to vet the claims of education technology vendors, with a specific focus on privacy issues around FERPA and PPRA. We will highlight existing PTAC resources on the topic, as well as delve into security best practices in order to facilitate schools’ and agencies’ own analysis of security protections within these new applications.

This event will have limited capacity, and further details will be sent after your registration request has been approved. For those unable to attend, the event will be recorded and made available on the website.

Event: Vetting Apps and Education Technology
When: Wednesday 12 August 2020, 12:00 PM – 04:00 PM
Time Zone: (GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US and Canada) (Please note that Daylight Saving Time (+01:00 hr) is in effect during this time)
To register now, please visit the following link:
To know more about the event, please visit our website:

FREE Technical Support to Collaborative Planning Teams and Emergency Operations Planning

Beginning Monday, August 10 and Wednesday, August 12, Department of Education’s Maine School Safety Center will begin offering twice weekly office hours to answer any questions schools may have concerning their emergency operations plans (EOPs).  This is a general effort to offer support and guidance for schools and their collaborative planning teams(CPTs) for all issues regarding their EOPs.

Office Hours will be available from 9:00 to 11:00 every Monday and Wednesday through September 9, 2020, and can be scheduled in advance by contacting MSSC’s Emergency Operations Planning Officer, Melissa Condon at 207-446-0862 or The MSSC team will provide a zoom meeting or phone consultation, as requested.

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Jaci Holmes

Maine DOE Team member Jaci Holmes is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Jaci in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

My position functions as the Federal Liaison of the Legislative section and serves as a member of the Commissioner’s Directors team. My primary focus is to provide specialized expertise on federal statutory and regulatory development and the advocacy of federal legislative activity in coordination with the Congressional staff, and to assist the Director of Policy and Governmental Affairs and the Legislative Director on State statutory and rules development and the advocacy of State legislative activity.  I am directly involved with the State Educational Agency’s performance management specifically in reviewing certain Federal Performance reports for the Commissioner.  I oversee the US Department of Education Federal Performance Site Reviews, develop the Report of the New Federal Mandates each October, and serve as the rulemaking liaison for all Department rulemaking. During this pandemic period I serve on the ESSER Team reviewing the SAU applications, developing the monitoring protocols for examining the utilization of the CARES Act funding, and reviewing any reporting activities.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy working with staff across the department as we look at: refinements in public policy, rule development and refinement, the impacts of proposed federal and state legislation on Maine educators, children and families. Maine is very fortunate to have a strong working relationship with our Congressional delegation who stay in touch with me in my Liaison role to examine the impact of new bills, federal stabilization bills over the years and proposed reauthorizations of federal statutes such as IDEA, Perkins, and ESEA.

How or why did you decide on this career?

My career in education has evolved over time. I began as a kindergarten and first grade teacher, moved on to higher education preparing individuals to become early childhood educators and then to the Maine Department of Education initially to support state level program coordination for early childhood special education. Over time state and then federal advocacy became a large part of my responsibilities. I enjoy the ever changing nature of the work and the opportunity to influence the education policy.

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

I thoroughly enjoy being on the ocean. I have competitively raced with a great sailing crew, and now enjoy meandering around Casco Bay in my power boat watching the eagles, ospreys, seals and occasionally catching a fish! Love to travel as well.

Sarah Bailey Named 2020 Maine History Teacher of the Year

Sarah Bailey, a teacher at South Portland High School, has been named the 2020 Maine State History Teacher of the Year, an award presented annually by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to K-12 American history education.

Inaugurated in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school. The award honors one K-12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and US Territories. In fall 2020, the National History Teacher of the Year will be selected from the pool of state winners.

Sarah Baily, Social Studies Teacher and Department Chair at South Portland High School, is a most deserving recipient of this prestigious honor. In 2003, she received a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education Social Studies with a double minor in American History and Business from Colby Sawyer College, and in 2004, she completed a one-year intensive program to receive a Master’s of Science in Secondary Education Social Studies from the University of Connecticut. Sarah Bailey’s dedication to learning has been a hallmark of her classroom. She has earned certifications in digital learning and as a National Geographic Certified educator, and her students have received the benefit of teaching that brings many different parts of the globe into her classroom. Sarah Bailey has high expectations for her students and helps them rise to any challenge. She has received many awards during her teaching career, including being chosen as a National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) presenter multiple times. Sarah is also a featured presenter for National Council for Geography. In 2017 Sarah was recognized by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine as an outstanding teacher for her teaching on the Holocaust. She was also a member of the Maine DOE Social Studies Teacher Leader Cohort during the 2018-19 school year and led webinars for the Maine DOE during the 2019-20 school year. When not teaching and learning, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family, and is an avid reader, traveler, and beachgoer.

In addition to a $1,000 honorarium, Sarah Bailey’s school will receive a core archive of American history books and Gilder Lehrman educational materials and recognition at a ceremony in Maine.

Nominations for the 2021 History Teacher of the Year awards are now open. Students, parents, colleagues, and supervisors may nominate K-12 teachers for the award by visiting The deadline for 2021 nominations is March 31, 2021.