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Provision of Services to ELL and World Languages Students During School Closures

May 15, 2020

Memo & FAQ - May 13, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profound impact on the way we educate our students. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) recognizes and applauds the extraordinary work being done every day by New York’s educators to address the learning needs of all students, including the special needs of English Language Learners1 (ELLs).

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Part 154 of the Commissioner’s regulations, all ELLs (including Newcomers, Developing ELLs, Long-Term ELLs, ELLs with Disabilities, Students with Interrupted Formal Education, and Former ELLs) are entitled to an academically rigorous education in all content areas through which they may develop their new language skills in either an English as a New Language (ENL) or Bilingual Education setting. Further, under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 and other federal and State laws, school districts must act to eliminate barriers that may impede equal participation by all students. This mandate is particularly important now, when long-standing educational inequities have been exacerbated by unequal access to resources – particularly the resources needed for successful remote learning. Local school districts and NYSED must continue to work together to address these inequities, including access to technology and disparities in staffing.

NYSED will be as flexible as federal and State laws allow regarding the provision of services to ELLs and the procedures and timelines for enrolling potential ELL students. Even with this flexibility, however, school districts must continue to support students’ continuity of learning and the diverse needs of ELLs/MLLs. Districts must also continue to provide appropriate instruction and support to all students with English language acquisition needs; this requirement applies as well to those students for whom a formal identification process was not conducted due to the COVID-19 pandemic school closures and have not yet been formally identified as ELLs, but who may benefit from such support.

Further, districts must establish ways to communicate regularly with staff, students and families regarding the delivery of educational services to all identified ELLs, including students with potential language acquisition needs who were engaged in the ELL identification process prior to New York’s school closures. Communication with parents/guardians should be provided in the language preference of the students’ families, in accordance with federal and State requirements.

NYSED’s Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages (OBEWL) will continue to provide guidance and policy updates that address the needs of students, parents/guardians and school districts during this challenging time. Resources to support ELLs/MLLs and their families (as well as students enrolled in World Language courses) are available on the OBEWL website and on the eight Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN) websites. The attached Questions and Answers document will also be updated as needed.

Additional Resources:

Office of Bilingual Education & English as a New Language and World Languages home page

OBEWL ELL Resource Collection

Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN) Contact Information

NYSED’s COVID-19 Resources

U.S. Department of Education (USDE) guidance regarding students’ civil rights and the COVID-19 outbreak