Who should be using English Language Development (ELD) standards?

  • Classroom and content teachers should be using the Performance Definitions for receptive and productive language to differentiate learning tasks and assessments for English learners. They can see more detailed examples of what students can do in the Model Performance Indicators (MPIs) for each content area, including expanded strands of MPIs that show examples of language associated with the strand for Linguistic Complexity,  Language Forms and Conventions, and Vocabulary Usage. The integrated and complementary strands also provide support for the the analytical process teachers go through as they consider the linguistic challenges inherent in their lessons as planned and decide on language objectives and support for English learners. Teachers can use the speaking and writing rubrics to track the progress that the English learners in their classrooms are making in communicating within an academic setting.
  • ESL teachers should be using their deep knowledge of the language development continuum that has been expressed through the Performance Definitions, the Writing and Speaking Rubrics, and the ELD Standards to develop annual learning targets for their students. ESL teachers interpret the expected language behaviors for each level into rigorous, respectful goals based on researched growth trajectories. ESL teachers are usually the best resource in the building for content unit and lesson planning, and should be able to lead classroom teachers in a study of the ELD standards that applies the language continuum to instruction and assessment tasks contained within their units and lessons. Perhaps the most important of the tools, when ESL teachers are training and supporting classroom teachers, are the Writing and Speaking Rubrics, since these can be used as a common definition of productive language skills at each level of language proficiency.
  • Administrators should be using the ELD standards to recognize reasonable expectations for independent comprehension and communication for students at different levels of English language proficiency. This can help guide decisions in the Response to Intervention (RTI) process, and for selecting appropriate language development programs and interventions.
  • Teacher Training Programs should be familiarizing pre-service teachers with these tools in preparation for teaching content standards to English learners.

For more information, contact ELLEE Consulting to schedule any of the following workshop sessions:


What is a language continuum?

It is a framework that descries language behavior typifying each level of proficiency, from beginning to advanced levels. Some language continua are expressed in 3 levels, others in 4 or 5 levels. The language continuum that forms the backbone of the ELD Standards is expressed in 5 levels of language development, with full proficiency represented by level 6.

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Which part of the ELD standards should ESL teachers use to guide instruction for English language development?

ESL teachers should use the language continuum within the ELD Standards to set learning targets that relate to English language development so that individual students’ progress can be measured throughout the year in relation to the end-of-year expectation. Speaking performances and writing projects should be analyzed using the rubrics for a global check on progress through the ELD levels, and more specific goals can be written into project rubrics. (Remember to include sample student work to illustrate each rating on the rubric!)

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Do the ELD standards mainly demonstrate differentiation or do they guide curriculum and assessment?

The basic and initial use of the ELD Standards is to model differentiation of instruction and assessment in the classroom to content teachers. It is now so easy to consult the Model Performance Indicators (MPIs) for science, for example, as a way of guiding teachers during the final stages of unit and lesson planning. In other words, once teachers have established their learning targets based on content standards, they can view a sample topic from their content area and the formative matrix of MPIs for each level of language proficiency in order to decide how to differentiate the learning tasks for ELLs in the classroom. When thinking about assessment tasks, teachers can look over the Performance Definitions for the productive domains of Speaking and Writing for ideas of what English learners are able to do with language in order to show what they know.

Once teachers understand the classroom application of the standards and MPIs, curriculum planning teams can strategize at the unit level to both suggest alternative assessments for beginner and intermediate English learners and recommend support strategies in the classroom.

For more information, contact ELLEE Consulting to schedule any of the following workshop sessions:


You explained that the ELD standards function differently than content standard do, but don’t the model performance indicators (MPIs) get tested in the end?

Inquiring minds need to know. Yes, the ACCESS for ELLs test, which is used in the now 33 states that have joined the WIDA consortium, is built on the summative matrix of MPIs, which means that they function as assessment frameworks for English language development testing and accountability purposes (AMAOs). This does not change the fact that their essential purpose is to describe global levels of English language development, or the ELD continuum, rather than to describe a comprehensive list of essential learning targets for English language development. Trained, experienced educators need to interpret the language continuum into year-tight goals in the same way that mastery grade level standards are broken down into curriculum goals for instruction during preceding grade levels.

For more information, contact ELLEE Consulting to schedule any of the following workshop sessions:


We’ve done some work with the SIOP model in our district. How does the SIOP model fit with the new ELD standards?

Fortunately, you do not need to discard the SIOP model when you begin implementing the new ELD standards. In fact, the use of these standards and tools fits so well into SIOP component #1–Lesson Preparation that I have often supplemented the SIOP training with ELD standards training. There is also strong crossover for the ELD standards and tools in Components #2–Building Background, #3–Comprehensible Input, and #8–Review and Assessment.

For more information, contact ELLEE Consulting to schedule any of the following workshop sessions:

ELLEE Consulting can also provide training on the SIOP model and on the use of the SIOP model in instructional coaching.


What is the best way for everyone in a school to get on the same page with learning targets for English proficiency?

Since we often assess comprehension through productive language tasks, that is to say, tasks that require speaking and writing, the best place for a team approach to ELD targets is to start with writing. First, identify the level of writing that a particular student can produce independently in English, using the writing rubric. Then, identify the level that this student should be able to achieve by the end of the school year. Finally, analyze the student’s writing to set 2-3 specific writing goals; for example, by the end of the year, Selena will be able to write about content topics; using specific content words and phrases; using simple and compound sentences, and using adjectives and adverbs for accurate description. This goal would be appropriate for a student who is not yet writing complete sentences at the beginning of the year. Such goals can then be shared by all teachers in every instructional setting and assessment on these goals, along with artifacts collected a variety of contexts, can form the basis of grading ELD using a standards-based rating approach.

For more information, contact ELLEE Consulting to schedule any of the following workshop sessions:


If we are only able to track growth on one or two targets, where should we start?

The most accessible learning targets are in the domain of writing, followed by those in the speaking domain. Some schools choose to identify end-of-year writing targets only; others choose both writing and speaking targets.

For more information, contact ELLEE Consulting to schedule any of the following workshop sessions:


How do the ELD Standards apply to English learners in bilingual programs?

This is a rich conversation that can enhance an already strong bilingual program as well as build clear goals for a struggling one. Just as AMAO goals apply to English learners in any school in the country – whether the language instruction program is ESL or bilingual or whether there is little or no identifiable program – the ELP standards and tools serve an important purpose in mixed language groups as well as English language development instructional groups.

For more information, contact ELLEE Consulting to schedule any of the following workshop sessions: