Summary and Description

English Language Acquisition

Clinical Definition

English Language Acquisition is also known referred to as an English Language Learner (ELL), Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and English as Second Language (ESL). These students are are both culturally and linguistically diverse and their overall English Language Proficiency (ELP) falls between levels 1 through 4 on the ACCESS for ELLs™ (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners) test administered annually (

Diagnostic Criteria

Diagnosis of an SLI in bilingual children is more difficult than in monolinguals. Due to limited availability of bilingual assessments, more often than not, English assessments are translated, compromising both validity and reliability .

A child must score below level 5 to be considered an ELL.

An example of the steps of assessment.

  1. The parents take a home language survey. Based on the parents report, it is determined whether or not the child needs to be assessed.
  2. The child will then be administered the English language screener proficiency test. All language components are addressed - listening, speaking reading and writing. Different versions are administered for 3 year olds, kindergartners, and grade 1+.
  3. Following this informal assessment, if the child scored between a 1-4.9 on the screener test, a letter is sent to home to parents in their proficient language. It explains the variety of programs offered and inquires which one the parents would like their child to be placed.
  4. The child will then participate yearly in testing (ACCESS for ELL’s) every spring until they reach level 5.

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ELL are “the fastest growing subgroup in the nation.” (Wolf, Herman, Bachman, Bailey & Griffin, 2008).

Between the 1994–1995 and 2004–2005 school years ( a 10 year period), the number of ELL students enrolled increased by 60%. This is remarkable since the K–12 growth was just over 2% (Wolf et. al., 2008).

Severity: Level 1-6 on the ACCESS for ELL's

Etiology/Possible Causes

Underlying expressive or receptive language disorder

Contributing Factors

  • Cultural factors (e.g. pragmatics)
  • Rules of interactions
  • How much exposure the child has to both the dominant and secondary language
  • Phonemic awareness - allophonic variations vs. phonemic differences
  • SES
  • Emotional regulation
  • Cognitive skills

(Navarrete & Wilson, 2013)

Unknown Information

  • Effectiveness of RTI with ELL

Key Characteristics

Level 1

  • Communicate nonverbally in response to simple commands, statements or questions
  • Rely heavily on pictures and other non-linguistic representations for comprehension
  • Begin to repeat language used by others, individual words or simple phrases

Level 2

  • Use basic words, phrases and expressions
  • Understand phrases and short sentences; begin to follow instructions and class discussions
  • Begin to comprehend reading with support

Level 3

  • Occasionally join in conversations and class discussions on familiar topics
  • Produce longer phrases and complete sentences with some grammatical errors
  • Display increasing comprehension

Level 4

  • Engage in conversations and class discussions
  • Use more complex sentences and phrases with fewer grammatical errors
  • Compose original writing

Level 5

  • Frequently use academic language
  • Produce language comparable to a native speaker (with a few grammatical errors)
  • Actively participate in all areas of literacy—speaking, listening, reading, and writing
  • use multiple strategies to communicate and comprehend

(Boyle, 2014)