A general glossary of ESL / EFL terms:


academic achievement standards

The expected performance of students on measures of academic achievement; for instance, “all students will score at least 76% correct on the district-developed performance-based assessment.” Also known as performance standards. See also academic content standards. academic content standards Standards developed by state departments of education to demonstrate what they expect of all students in the core content areas. According to NCLB, ELL students “will meet the same challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards as all children are expected to meet” (NCLB §3102(2)). See also academic achievement standards.


Adapting language (spoken or written) to make it more understandable to second language learners. In assessment, accommodations may be made to the presentation, response method, setting, or timing/scheduling of the assessment (Baker, 2000; Rivera & Stansfield, 2000).

additive bilingualism

One of two contextual concepts which explain the possible outcomes of second language learning. Additive bilingualism occurs in an environment in which the addition of a second language and culture does not replace the first language and culture; rather, the first language/culture are promoted and developed, such as in dual language programs or developmental bilingual education programs. Additive bilingualism is linked to high self-esteem, increased cognitive flexibility, and higher levels of proficiency in L2 (Baker, 2000). The opposite of subtractive bilingualism.

affective filter

Associated with Krashen’s Monitor Model of second language learning, the affective filter is a metaphor that describes a learner’s attitudes that affect the relative success of second language acquisition. Negative feelings such as lack of motivation, lack of self-confidence and learning anxiety act as filters that hinder and obstruct language learning (Baker, 2000).

alternative assessment

“Approaches for finding out what students know or can do other than through the use of multiple-choice testing” (O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.237). See also authentic assessment.


Within Title III of NCLB, each state is required to determine Annual Measureable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs). AMAOs indicate how much English language proficiency (reading, writing, speaking, listening, and comprehension) children served with Title III funds are expected to gain each year. See also AYP for similar content area requirements.


An achievement test, in Spanish, that generally matches the objectives of the Stanford Achievement Tests (SAT 9). Aprenda has several forms, covering pre-primer, primary, and intermediate grades. Different forms provide different coverage according to their grade levels, but in general, Aprenda measures reading, language arts, and mathematics (Hargett, 1998).

audiolingual approach

A behavioristic approach to language learning, which stems from the belief that the ability to make a sound or use correct grammar is an automatic, unconscious act. Instruction is teacher-centered and makes use of drills and dialogue. Vocabulary and sentence patterns are carefully graded and introduced in a sequence, skills of listening and speaking are introduced before reading and writing, and emphasis is placed on accuracy of pronunciation and grammar. The aim is for the learner to gain an automatic, accurate control of basic sentence structures, sounds, and vocabulary. The approach was very popular in the 1950s and 60s, but its use has declined in favor of the communicative approach (Baker & Jones, 1998).

authentic assessment

“Multiple forms of assessment that reflect student learning, achievement, motivation, and attitudes on instructionally-relevant classroom activities. Examples of authentic assessment include performance assessment, portfolios, and student self-assessment” (O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.4).


Within Title I of NCLB, each state is required to determine Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP indicates the expected growth in content areas (reading, language arts, and math currently, with science added in 2005-2006) for students served with Title I funds are expected to gain each year. There are various penalties for schools not reaching AYP across 2-4 years. See also AMAO for similar language proficiency requirements.


baseline data

Data (test scores, etc.) that are collected before a program begins, or at the beginning of a program. For instance, to create an appropriate AMAO, it is necessary to have baseline data indicating how well the students currently are performing.


In California, the BCLAD (Bilingual Cross-cultural, Language and Academic Development) is the certificate required to teach in a classroom where the native language is used for all or part of instruction. It also authorizes teachers to deliver instruction in English to English language learners (ELD or SDAIE) (CCTC, 2001a).


Acronym for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, part of a theory of language proficiency developed by Jim Cummins (1984), which distinguishes BICS from CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). BICS is often referred to as “playground English” or “survival English.” It is the basic language ability required for face-to-face communication where linguistic interactions are embedded in a situational context (see context-embedded language). This language, which is highly contextualized and often accompanied by gestures, is relatively undemanding cognitively and relies on the context to aid understanding. BICS is much more easily and quickly acquired than CALP, but is not sufficient to meet the cognitive and linguistic demands of an academic classroom. (Cummins, 1984; Baker & Jones, 1998).


Identifying with the cultures of two different language groups. To be bicultural is not necessarily the same as being bilingual, and vice-versa (Baker, 2000).

bilingual education

An educational program in which two languages are used to provide content matter instruction. As with the term bilingualism, bilingual education is “a simple label for a complex phenomenon.” An important distinction is between those programs that use and promote two languages and those where bilingual children are present, but bilingualism is not fostered in the curriculum (Baker & Jones, 1998). Also see DBE, TBE, two-way, dual language.

Bilingual Education Act

Enacted in Congress in 1968 as Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 as amended. It established a discretionary competitive grant program to fund bilingual education programs for economically disadvantaged language minority students, in recognition of the unique educational disadvantages faced by non-English speaking students. The Act was reauthorized in 1974, 1978, 1984, 1988, and 1994. Each reauthorization brought changes in the types of bilingual education programs that could receive federal grants (Crawford, 1995; Baker, 2001). Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, former Title VII programs are now subsumed under Title III language Instruction for Limited English Proficient and Immigrant Students.


Put simply, bilingualism is the ability to use two languages. However, defining bilingualism is problematic since individuals with varying bilingual characteristics may be classified as bilingual. There may exist distinctions between ability and use of a language; variation in proficiency across the four language dimensions (listening, speaking, reading and writing); differences in proficiency between the two languages; variation in proficiency due to the use of each language for different functions and purposes; and variation in language proficiency over time (Baker & Jones, 1998). People may become bilingual either by acquiring two languages at the same time in childhood or by learning a second language sometime after acquiring their first language.


The ability to effectively communicate or understand thoughts and ideas through two languages’ grammatical systems and vocabulary, using their written symbols (Hargett, 1998).



Developed by Jim Cummins (1984), Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is the language ability required for academic achievement in a context-reduced environment. Examples of context-reduced environments include classroom lectures and textbook reading assignments. CALP is distinguished from Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) (Baker, 2000).

Castañeda v. Pickard

In 1981, in the most significant decision regarding the education of language-minority students since Lau v. Nichols, the 5th Circuit Court established a three-pronged test for evaluating programs serving English language learners. According to the Castañeda standard, schools must – base their program on educational theory recognized as sound or considered to be a legitimate experimental strategy, – implement the program with resources and personnel necessary to put the theory into practice, and – evaluate programs and make adjustments where necessary to ensure that adequate progress is being made. [648 F. 2d 989 (5th Circuit, 1981)].


Comprehensive Regional Assistance Centers (CCs), funded under the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education, were first authorized under Title XIII of the 1994 Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA) to assist school districts and state educational agencies in implementing educational reforms that ensure all students are educated to high standards (Holmes, 1995). See the Comprehensive Center Network.


California English Language Development Test. Language proficiency test developed for the California Department of Education. Progress on the CELDT is the basis for California’s AMAOs. Similar to the LAS, only public schools in California can use the CELDT.


In California, the CLAD (Cross-cultural, Language and Academic Development) certificate authorizes the teacher to provide instruction in English to English language learners (ELD and SDAIE) (CCTC, 2001b).


Sometimes used to describe the mixing of two languages at the word level (i.e. one word in the sentence is in a different language) (Baker & Jones, 1998).


The term used to describe any switch among languages in the course of a conversation, whether at the level of words, sentences or blocks of speech. Code-switching most often occurs when bilinguals are in the presence of other bilinguals who speak the same languages (Baker & Jones, 1998).


Words in different languages related to the same root, e.g. education (English) and educación (Spanish).


A group of students educated together; e.g., 1 st grade students who remain together, and whose scores are reported as a unit, through 5 th grade or a group of ELL students who enter a 3 rd grade SEI program together. The Consolidated State Application requires that, for reporting purposes, all public school K-12 students be included and that “cohorts” be defined by the state (US Department of Education).

Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP)

Cummins’ theory that two languages work in an integrated manner in one underlying, central thinking system. Skills that are not directly connected to a particular language, such as subtraction, using a computer, or reading may be transferred from one language to another once the concept is understood since they exist as part of the common proficiency. Skills that are specific to a language (idioms, punctuation) may be kept separate (Baker & Jones, 1998). The opposing theory is Separate Underlying Proficiency (SUP).

communicative-based ESL

This approach to teaching English as a second language (also referred to as the functional approach or communicative approach) is based on the theory that language is acquired through exposure to meaningful and comprehensible messages, rather than being learned through the formal study of grammar and vocabulary. The goal of communicative-based ESL is communicative competence (Baker, 2001).

communicative competence

The ability to interact appropriately with others by knowing what to say, to whom, when, where, and how (Hymes, 1972).

comprehensible input

An explanation of language learning, proposed by Krashen, that language acquisition is a result of learners being exposed to language constructs and vocabulary that are slightly beyond their current level. This “input” is made comprehensible to students by creating a context that supports its meaning (Krashen, 1981).

concurrent translation

A bilingual teaching approach in which the teacher uses two languages interchangeably during instruction. When not carefully planned, this approach may lead to pedagogically random code-switching which may not meet instructional objectives. In addition, students often learn to tune out the language they do not understand and wait for the information in the language they do understand. For a more effective approach, see new concurrent approach (Lessow-Hurley, 1990).

Consolidated State Application

Under NCLB, each state must periodically submit a plan for the education of K-12 students in public education. Includes goals and definitions for AMAOs, AYP, highly qualified teachers, and other aspects of NCLB-mandated education (U.S. Department of Education).

content area

Generally refers to academic subjects in school; e.g., math, science, English/language arts, reading, and social sciences. Language proficiency (English or other language) may affect these areas, but is not included. Assessments of language proficiency differ from those of language arts.

content-based ESL

This approach to teaching English as a second language makes use of instructional materials, learning tasks, and classroom techniques from academic content areas as the vehicle for developing language, content, cognitive and study skills. English is used as the medium of instruction (Crandall, 1992).

content standards

See academic content standards.

context-embedded language

Communication occurring in a context that offers help to comprehension (e.g. visual clues, gestures, expressions, specific location). Language where there are plenty of shared understandings and where meaning is relatively obvious due to help from the physical or social nature of the conversation (Baker, 2000).

context-reduced language

Language where there are few clues as to the meaning of the communication apart from the words themselves. The language is likely to be abstract (Baker, 2000). Examples textbook reading, classroom lecture.

core content areas

According to NCLB, core content areas are those on which students must be tested annually to determine their progress towards meeting academic content standards and achievement standards. These currently include reading, language arts, and math; in the future, science and social science will be added.

criterion-referenced test

Criterion-referenced tests are nationally or locally available, are designed to determine whether students have mastered specific content, and allow comparisons with other students taking the same assessment.



Desegregation Assistance Centers (DACs), now known as Equity Assistance Centers.


In California, District English Learners Advisory Committee (formerly DBAC, District Bilingual Advisory Committee). Composed of representatives from each school’s English Language Advisory Committee (ELAC). Its responsibility is to advise on districtwide issues affecting English learners (California Department of Education).

developmental bilingual education

A program that teaches content through two languages and develops both languages with the goal of bilingualism and biliteracy. See also late-exit bilingual education (Baker, 2000).

dialogue journal

“A type of writing in which students make entries in a notebook on topics of their choice, to which the teacher responds, modeling effective language but not overtly correcting the student’s language” (O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.238).

dominant language

The language with which the speaker has greater proficiency and/or uses more often (Baker, 2001). See primary language.

dual language program/dual immersion

Also known as two-way immersion or two-way bilingual education, these programs are designed to serve both language minority and language majority students concurrently. Two language groups are put together and instruction is delivered through both languages. For example, in the US, native English-speakers might learn Spanish as a foreign language while continuing to develop their English literacy skills and Spanish-speaking ELLs learn English while developing literacy in Spanish. The goals of the program are for both groups to become biliterate, succeed academically, and develop cross-cultural understanding (Howard, 2001). See the ERIC Two-way Online Resource Guide or the NCELA publication – Biliteracy for a Global Society.



Equity Assistance Centers (EACs), formerly known as Desegregation Assistance Centers, are funded under the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education of the Department of Education and authorized by Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. All ten EACs provide technical assistance to public schools in their region to ensure equal access and equitable treatment for all students, regardless of race, gender, or national origin.

early-exit bilingual education

A form of transitional bilingual education (TBE) in which children move from bilingual education programs to English-only classes in the first or second year of schooling (Baker, 2000).


Early Childhood English Language Learner – a child who is in between the ages of zero to five (early stages of development) and whose native lanugage is not English and are in the process of learning English as a second language.


English as a Foreign Language (EFL) refers to situations where English is taught to persons living in countries where English is not the medium of instruction in the schools or to international students in the US who intend to return to their home countries. In EFL classes, English is taught as a subject, and exposure to English is typically limited to the classroom setting (e.g., English in Japan) (Snow, 1986).


In California, English Learners Advisory Committee (formerly BAC – Bilingual Advisory Committee). Site-based committee composed of parents and staff members, the majority being parents of English learners, to advise the administration on services for English learners (California Department of Education).


English language development (ELD) means instruction designed specifically for English language learners to develop their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English. This type of instruction is also known as “English as a second language” (ESL), “teaching English to speakers of other languages” (TESOL), or “English for speakers of other languages” (ESOL). ELD, ESL, TESOL or ESOL standards are a version of English language arts standards that have been crafted to address the specific developmental stages of students learning English.


English Language Learners (ELLs) are students whose first language is not English and who are in the process of learning English. Also see LEP. ELP

English language proficiency

Often used in conjunction with AMAOs.

Emergency Immigrant Education Program

Formerly authorized under Title VII of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994, The Emergency Immigrant Education Program (EIEP) provided funds to states on a formula basis to assist local educational agencies in which immigrant student enrollment had increased significantly. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, the EIEP appears under currently inactive Part B of Title III. Under Part A of Title III, part of the state award for educating English language learners is calculated based on immigrant student enrollment.

endangered language

An endangered language is one that has a dwindling number of speakers. Languages are endangered when their use is replaced by the majority language of a region or when they are no longer being learned by new generations of children or adult speakers. In the United States, many Native American languages are endangered or have become extinct. One method for preventing language extinction is the teaching of heritage languages in school (Woodbury, 2000).


An umbrella term that is used to refer to different federal and state legislative initiatives and various national, state, and local organizations, all of which involve the effort to make English the official language of the United States. The initiatives and organizations vary in the degree to which they promote the suppression of non-English languages. The official English movement is spearheaded by two national organizations U.S. English and English First (Lewelling, 1992).


In a school setting, a mainstream class for native English speakers, Fluent English Proficient (FEP) students or Redesignated Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) students, where all instruction is provided through English with no accommodations or special assistance for LEP students.

English Plus

A movement based on the belief that all U.S. residents should have the opportunity to become proficient in English plus one or more other languages (Lewelling, 1992).

entry criteria

A set of criteria for designation of students as English language learners and placement in bilingual education, ESL, or other language support services. Criteria usually include a home language survey and performance on an English language proficiency test.

Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974

This civil rights statute prohibits states which receive federal funding from denying equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin. The statute specifically prohibits states from denying equal educational opportunity to limited English proficient students by the failure of an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in its instructional programs. [20 U.S.C. §1203(f)]


The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first enacted in 1965, and reauthorized every 5 years. The ESEA was reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.


English as a second language (ESL) is an educational approach in which English language learners are instructed in the use of the English language. Their instruction is based on a special curriculum that typically involves little or no use of the native language, focuses on language (as opposed to content) and is usually taught during specific school periods. For the rest of the school day, students may be placed in mainstream classrooms, an immersion program, or a bilingual education program. Every bilingual education program has an ESL component (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994). Also ELD, pullout ESL, ESOL, content-based ESL.


English for speakers of other languages (see ESL).


English for specific purposes (ESP) refers to situations where technical English is taught for use in the professions, science, or for vocational needs (Strevens, 1977).


An educational program whose success is demonstrated through sound evaluation and/or true experimental research. That is, the studies are based on random selection of participants and random assignment of participants to different programs, the studies are longitudinal (at least three years), resulting in long-term positive effects that are replicable. See also scientifically-based.

exit criteria

A set of criteria for ending special services for English language learners and placing them in mainstream English only classes as fluent English speakers. This is usually based on a combination of performance on an English language proficiency test and grades, standardized test scores, or teacher recommendations. In some cases, this redesignation of students may be based on the amount of time they have been in special programs.

exiting rate

The rate at which students are moved from programs in which they receive special services as English language learners to mainstream English-only programs. See redesignation rate.


false cognates

Words in different languages that sound alike and have similar form, but unrelated meanings (CA ELD Standards, 2000), like embarrassed (English) and embarazada (Spanish, meaning “pregnant”).


Fluent English Proficient. Also see IFEP and RFEP.


The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) is a federal program awarding grants to states and local educational agencies to promote programs that improve foreign language learning. The program for LEAs and SEAs was authorized under Title VII of the Improving Americas Schools Act of 1994, and only continuation grants will continue to be funded under Title V of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. (U.S. Department of Education). More about FLAP


The Elementary School Foreign Language Incentive Program (FLIP), authorized under Title V of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 awarding incentive payments to public elementary schools that provide students with a foreign language program designed to lead to communicative competency.

functional approach

See communicative-based English as a second language.


gradual exit program

A bilingual education program designed by Krashen (1996) in which students gradually transition from native language classes to classes in English. At first, the native language is used for all subjects (except ESL and art, music and physical education). At a later stage, the first language is used for those subjects that are difficult to make comprehensible for those limited in English (social studies and language arts), while English is used in those subjects that are easier to contextualize (math, science). Finally, English is used for all subjects.

grammar-translation approach

The historically dominant method of second language teaching in school. Students were expected to memorize vocabulary and verb declensions, learn rules of grammar and their exceptions, take dictation, and translate written passages. The emphasis was on literacy development rather than the acquisition of oral/aural skills (Baker, 2001).


heritage language

The language a person regards as their native, home, and/or ancestral language. This covers indigenous languages (e.g. Navajo) and in-migrant languages (e.g. Spanish in the U.S.) (Baker, 2000). See the ERIC Digest on heritage languages.

high quality teacher

According to NCLB, all students will be taught by “high quality teachers.” While each state determines the definition of “high quality,” teachers must have, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree.

high-stakes assessment

Any assessment that is used to make a critical decision about a student, such as whether or not a student will move on to the next grade or receive a diploma. School officials using such tests must ensure that students are tested on a curriculum they have had a fair opportunity to learn, so that certain subgroups of students, such as racial and ethnic minority students or students with a disability or limited English proficiency, are not systematically excluded or disadvantaged by the test or the test-taking conditions. Furthermore, high-stakes decisions should not be made on the basis of a single test score, because a single test can only provide a “snapshot” of student achievement and may not accurately reflect an entire year’s worth of student progress and achievement (AERA, 1999).

home language

Language student speaks at home, with family. See also L1, mother tongue, and native language.



Institution of Higher Education, typically a 2- or 4-year postsecondary college or university.


Initially Fluent English Proficient. Refers to a student who is from a language-minority home and who has been determined to be fluent in English upon entering the school system according to a state-approved language proficiency assessment (California Department of Education).


Approach to teaching language in which the target language is used exclusively to provide all instruction.

immersion bilingual education

Schooling where some or most subject content is taught through a second language. Students in immersion bilingual programs are usually native speakers of a majority language. These programs derive from Canadian educational experiments that had as their goal the bilingual/bicultural development of children without loss of academic achievement. Bilingual immersion programs differ in the duration of the program and the amount of time spent on instruction in each language (Baker, 2000).

information gap

“An oral language activity in which a student is rated on his or her success in describing information that is kept from a partner, such as a picture, map, or object” (O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.238).

Instructional conversations

“[D]iscussion-based lessons geared toward creating opportunities for students’ conceptual and linguistic development. They focus on an idea or a student. The teacher encourages expression of students’ own ideas, builds upon information students provide and experiences they have had, and guides students to increasingly sophisticated levels of understanding” (Goldenberg, 1991).


The IDEA Proficiency Test. A test of language proficiency in English or Spanish. Both the IPT Reading/Writing and Oral Tests are norm-referenced. Separate tests have been developed for different grade level groups. The tests provide non, limited and fluent English and Spanish designations (Ballard & Tighe, 2001).



First language (also native language).


Second Language.

language acquisition

The process of acquiring a first or second language. Some linguists distinguish between acquisition and learning of a second language, using the former to describe the informal development of a person’s second language and the latter to describe the process of formal study of a second language. Other linguists maintain that there is no clear distinction between formal learning and informal acquisition. The process of acquiring a second language is different from acquiring the first (Baker, 2000).

language attrition

The loss of a language within a person or language group, gradually over time (Baker, 2000).

language experience approach

An approach to literacy development based on the idea that students can learn to write by dictating to the teacher what they already know and can express verbally, and that they can then read that which has been written. Hence, the students’ first reading materials come from their own repertoire of language (Richard-Amato, 1996).

language maintenance

The protection and promotion of the first or native language in an individual or within a speech community, particularly among language minorities (through bilingual education, for example). The term is often used with reference to policies that protect and promote minority languages (Baker, 2000).

language majority

A person or language community that is associated with the dominant language of the country.

language minority (LM)

A person or language community that is not from the dominant language group. In the U.S., a language-minority child may be bilingual, limited-English proficient, or English monolingual (Lessow-Hurley, 1991).

language proficiency

To be proficient in a second language means to effectively communicate or understand thoughts or ideas through the language’s grammatical system and its vocabulary, using its sounds or written symbols. Language proficiency is composed of oral (listening and speaking) and written (reading and writing) components as well as academic and non-academic language (Hargett, 1998).


The Language Assessment Scales, Oral Test. An assessment of oral English or oral Spanish proficiency published by CTB/McGraw-Hill. The LAS-O is individually administered and available in three age-group levels. Scores are used to place students into five categories of oral language proficiency and may be used to initially identify students needing language services, to measure their yearly progress, or to redesignate them into mainstream classes (Hargett, 1998).


The Language Assessment Scales, Reading and Writing Test. An assessment of English or Spanish proficiency in reading and writing published by CTB/McGraw-Hill. The LAS R/W is published in three different levels spanning grades two through high school. Scores on the different sections can be interpreted according to three reading/writing competency levels, representing non-reader/writer; limited reader/writer; and competent reader/writer. Along with the LAS-O, the LAS R/W may be used as part of the initial identification process, to track annual growth, and as one of the criteria for exit from an alternative program of instruction. All versions of the LAS R/W can be group administered (Hargett, 1998).

late-exit bilingual education

Late-exit programs provide bilingual instruction for three or more years of schooling. Late-exit programs may be transitional or developmental bilingual programs, depending on the goal of the program (Baker, 2000). See developmental bilingual education and transitional bilingual education.

Lau v. Nichols

Suit filed by Chinese parents in San Francisco in 1974 that led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling that identical education does not constitute equal education under the Civil Rights Act. School districts must take “affirmative steps” to overcome educational barriers faced by non-English speakers (Lyons, 1992).

Lau Remedies

Policy guidelines for the education of limited English proficient students, based on the ruling in the Lau vs. Nichols suit, for school districts’ compliance with the civil rights requirements of Title VI (Lyons, 1992).


Linguistically and culturally diverse. Commonly used to identify individuals from homes and communities where English is not the primary language of communication, although the individual may be bilingual or a monolingual English speaker (García, 1991).


Local educational agency (e.g. a school district).


Limited English proficient (LEP) is the term used by the federal government, most states and local school districts to identify those students who have insufficient English to succeed in English-only classrooms (Lessow-Hurley, 1991). Increasingly, English language learner (ELL) or English learner (EL) are used in place of LEP.


A term coined by linguists Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas, linguicism is a form of racism in which groups are defined and discriminated against because of the language that they speak. Linguicism may also be defined as the absence of certain rights, including a child’s right to learn or identify with his or her native language and the denial of a person’s right to use his native language in official situations (Galindo, 1997). Since 1992, the U.S. courts have recognized another form of linguicism discrimination against immigrants due to accent (Sethi, 1998 in Chen-Hayes, et al. 2001).



Classes designed for native or fluent speakers of English, in which no accommodations are made for ELLs.

maintenance bilingual education (MBE)

MBE, also referred to as late-exit bilingual education or developmental bilingual education, is a program that uses two languages ­– the student’s primary language and English — as the means of instruction. The instruction builds upon the student’s primary language skills and develops and expands the English language skills of each student to enable him or her to achieve competency in both languages (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994).

The May 25 Memorandum

To clarify a school district’s responsibilities with respect to national-origin-minority children, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, on May 25, 1970, issued a policy statement stating, in part, that “where inability to speak and understand the English language excludes national-origin-minority group children from effective participation in the educational program offered by a school district, the district must take affirmative steps to rectify the language deficiency in order to open the instructional program to the students.” Read the full text on the OCR website.

metalinguistic skills

The ability to to talk about language, analyze it, think about it, separate it from context, and judge it. Metalinguistic skills, such as phonemic awareness and sound-to-symbol correspondence are regarded as key factors in the development of reading in young children and they may be prerequisite to later language acquisition in reading and writing. Research shows that balanced bilinguals have increased metalinguistic awareness in their abilities to analyze language and their control of internal language processing (Baker, 2001).

migrant education

Education programs established mainly to meet the needs of children of farm laborers, who often face such challenges as poverty, poor health care, limited English proficiency, and the readjustments of moving often from school to school. Migrant Education is part of Title I of the ESEA (Education Week, 2001).

Monitor model

In the monitor model, Krashen postulates the existence of an internal “Monitor”, used as part of the conscious process of error correction in language production. The Monitor plays only a minor role (when compared to the role of acquisition) in developing fluency. This model later became part of the Natural Approach to language teaching, which describes two modes of learning language acquisition (non-formal) and learning (formal). The Monitor model is part of the formal learning mode (Krashen & Terrell, 1983).

mother tongue

This term variously means (a) the language learned from the mother, (b) the first language learned, (c) the ‘mother tongue’ of an area or country, (d) the stronger (or dominant) language at any time of life, (e) the language used most by a person, (f) the language toward which the person has the more positive attitude and affection (Baker, 2000). See also native language.


Use of three or more languages. See also bilingualism.



The National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) is a professional association of teachers, administrators, parents, policy makers and others concerned with securing educational equity for language minority students.


National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP, known as “the nation’s report card,” is a national testing program administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education. Since 1969, NAEP tests have been conducted periodically in reading, math, science, writing, history, and geography. The NAEP trend assessment provides comparable data over time on the achievement of 9, 13, and 17 year olds across the nation. The NAEP main assessment allows for regional and state-by-state comparisons of the educational attainment of 4th, 8th and 12th grade students (Education Week, 2001).


National Association for Multicultural Education is a professional organization of individuals and groups from all levels of education, different academic disciplines and from diverse educational institutions and occupations with an interest in multicultural education.

native language

The language a person acquires first in life, or identifies with as a member of an ethnic group (Baker, 2000). See also mother tongue.

native-language instruction

The use of a child’s home language (generally by a classroom teacher) to provide lessons in academic subjects or to teach reading and other language arts (Crawford, 1997).

native-language support

The use of a child’s home language (generally by a teacher’s aide) to translate unfamiliar terms or otherwise clarify lessons taught in English (Crawford, 1997).

native-language immersion

A model in which Native American (or other indigenous) students are taught through sheltered instruction in an endangered language; promotes the goals of revitalizing a community’s vernacular and strengthening students’ cultural identity, while fostering academic achievement (Crawford, 1997).

Natural Approach

Developed by linguist Stephen Krashen and teacher Tracy Terrell (1983), the Natural Approach is a methodology for fostering second language acquisition which focuses on teaching communicative skills, both oral and written, and is based on Krashen’s theory of language acquisition which assumes that speech emerges in four stages (1) preproduction (listening and gestures), (2) early production (short phrases), (3) speech emergence (long phrases and sentences), and (4) intermediate fluency (conversation) (Lessow-Hurley, 1991).


The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs (NCELA) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education (, Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA) ( to collect, analyze, synthesize and disseminate information related to the education of linguistically and culturally diverse students.


Non-English proficient.

new concurrent approach

NCA, developed by Rodolfo Jacobson, is an approach to bilingual instruction that suggests using a structured form of code-switching for delivery of content instruction. Language switches are carefully planned to meet instructional purposes and concepts are reinforced by being considered and processed in both languages. In addition, all four language abilities (listening, speaking, reading and writing) should be addressed in both languages (Lessow-Hurley, 1990; Jacobson, 1990).

newcomer program

A program that addresses the specific needs of recent immigrant students, most often at the middle and high school level, especially those with limited or interrupted schooling in their home countries. Major goals of newcomer programs are to acquire beginning English language skills along with core academic skills and to acculturate to the U.S. school system. Some newcomer programs also include primary language development and an orientation to the student’s new community (Genesee, et al, 1999).

No Child Left Behind Act

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education act of 1965. The act contains the President’s four basic education reform principles stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods based on scientifically-based research. For more information on No Child Left Behind, see the U.S. Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind website (

norm-referenced test

Norm-referenced tests (NRTs) are nationally, commercially available, are designed to discriminate among groups of students, and allow comparisons across years, grade levels, schools, and other variables.



The Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA) ( in the U.S. Department of Education was established in 1974 by Congress to help school districts meet their responsibility to provide an equal education opportunity to English language learners.


The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education, has responsibility for enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. OCR investigates allegations of civil rights violations and initiates investigations of compliance with federal civil rights laws in schools that serve special student populations, including language-minority students. The office has developed several policies with regard to measuring compliance with the Lau v. Nichols decision. For more information, see the OCR resources about ELLs.


paraprofessional educator

Also known as instructional aides and teachers’ aides, these individuals provide assistance to teachers in the classroom. They do not provide instruction, but may help clarify material to students through home language or other support. In classrooms funded through Title I, paraprofessionals must have at least an Associates’ degree.

performance assessment

Any assessment that requires students “to accomplish complex and significant tasks, while bringing to bear prior knowledge, recent learning, and relevant skills to solve realistic or authentic problems” (Herman, Aschbacher, & Winters, p.2, cited in O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.4).

performance-based assessment

Performance-based assessments fit into the daily routine of the classroom, are designed to maximize students’ ability to demonstrate how they can apply their knowledge, and allow comparisons to other students taking the same assessment.

performance goal

Within the Consolidated State Application, state departments of education must list their overall educational goals (e.g., “all ELL students will meet high academic standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency in reading/language arts and mathematics”). Within each performance goal are embedded performance indicators and, frequently, baseline and target data (Consolidated State Application, 2003).

performance indicator

Within the Consolidated State Application, state departments of education break down each overall performance goal into more manageable statements pertaining to specific content areas, often indicating which students will meet the indicator and how performance will be assessed. For example, under the performance goal “all students will attain high academic content standards,” a performance indicator might be that “all ELL students will attain, at a minimum, proficiency in reading as measured by LAS/RW”).

portfolio assessment

[A] systematic collection of student work that is analyzed to show progress over time with regard to instructional objectives” (Valencia 1991, cited in O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.5). Student portfolios may include responses to readings, samples of writing, drawings, or other work.

preview-review method

A bilingual instructional approach in which content areas are previewed in one language, presented in the other, and reviewed in the first (Lessow-Hurley, 1990).

primary language

The language in which bilingual/multilingual speakers are most fluent, or which they prefer to use. This is not necessarily the language first learned in life (Baker, 2000). See also dominant language.

Proposition 203 (English Language Education for Children in Public Schools)

A ballot initiative passed by Arizona voters in 2000 which changed the way that schools are required to educate ELLs. According to the initiative’s summary, it “requires that all public school instruction be conducted in English. Children not fluent in English shall normally be placed in an intensive one-year English immersion program to teach them the language as quickly as possible while also learning academic subjects. Parents may request a waiver of these requirements for children who already know English, are ten years or older, or have special needs best suited to a different educational approach” (Text of Proposition 203). While fashioned after California’s Proposition 227, Proposition 203 is much more restrictive.

Proposition 227 (English for the Children Initiative)

A ballot initiative passed by California voters in June of 1998 which changed the way that schools are required to educate English language learners. Proposition 227 states that “. all children in California public schools shall be taught English by being taught in English. In particular, this shall require that all children be placed in English language classrooms. Children who are English learners shall be educated through sheltered English immersion during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year. Local schools shall be permitted to place in the same classroom English learners of different ages but whose degree of English proficiency is similar. Local schools shall be encouraged to mix together in the same classroom English learners from different native-language groups but with the same degree of English fluency. Once English learners have acquired a good working knowledge of English, they shall be transferred to English language mainstream classrooms.” (CATESOL, 1997).

pull-out ESL

A program in which LEP students are “pulled out” of regular, mainstream classrooms for special instruction in English as a second language (Baker, 2000).

push-in ESL

In contrast with pull-out ESL instruction, “the ESOL teacher goes into the regular classrooms to work with English language learners” (SERVE, 2004, p. 76). [For the full Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) document, please click here.]



The level of difficulty in a written passage. Readability depends on factors such as length of words, length of sentences, grammatical complexity and word frequency (Baker, 2000).


Generally, the process of changing the English proficiency status of a student from limited English proficient (LEP) to fluent English proficient (FEP). However, within NCLB, such students must be monitored for two years. If they do not continue to make progress in the English-speaking classroom, they can be redesignated back to SEI classes or others providing home language support.

redesignation rate

The percentage of students who are reclassified from limited English proficient (LEP) to fluent English proficient each year.The redesignation rate is often used as part of the accountability system for a school or district, although it does not provide valid data on program effectiveness.


In California, Redesignated Fluent English Proficient. A student who has been determined to be proficient in English after a period of study in an ESL or bilingual education program. The student is then placed in mainstream English classes (California Department of Education). See also IFEP.



Spanish Assessment of Basic Education. The SABE is a series of norm-referenced tests for grades one through eight designed to measure achievement in the basic skills of reading, mathematics, spelling, language, and study skills. It is statistically linked with the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) and the California Achievement Tests (CAT) (Hargett, 1998).


Special Alternative Instructional Programs. Under former Title VII of the ESEA, SAIPs were defined as K-12 instructional programs for limited English proficient students that did not incorporate the native language.


Stanford Achievement Test, ninth edition. Wide-scale norm-referenced assessment of English Reading, Language Skills, Math Procedures & Problem Solving, Listening, Science, and Social Studies. The SAT 9 test has not been normed on a population with a large percentage of ELLs.


Providing contextual supports for meaning during instruction or assessment, such as visual displays, classified lists, or tables or graphs” (O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.240).


An educational program whose success is demonstrated through sound evaluation and/or true experimental research. See also evidence-based.


Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English is a program of instruction in a subject area, delivered in English, which is specially designed to provide LEP students with access to the curriculum (CCTC, 2001a). See also sheltered English.


State educational agency.

second language

This term is used in several ways and can refer to 1) the second language learned chronologically, 2) a language other than the native language, 3) the weaker language, or 4) the less frequently used language. Second language may also be used to refer to third and further learned languages (Harris & Hodges, 1995).


Structured English immersion. See structured immersion.


A pejorative term used to describe bilingual individuals who display the following characteristics in both languages: a small vocabulary, incorrect grammar, must consciously think about language production, stilted and uncreative with each language, and difficulty thinking and expressing emotions in both languages (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1981).

Separate Underlying Proficiency (SUP)

The largely discredited idea that two languages exist separately and work independently in the thinking system (Baker, 2000). The opposing theory is Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP).

sheltered English

An instructional approach used to make academic instruction in English understandable to English language learners to help them acquire proficiency in English while at the same time achieving in content areas. Sheltered English instruction differs from ESL in that English is not taught as a language with a focus on learning the language. Rather, content knowledge and skills are the goals. In the sheltered classroom, teachers use simplified language, physical activities, visual aids, and the environment to teach vocabulary for concept development in mathematics, science, social studies and other subjects (National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, 1987).

sink or swim

Programs where the course material is taught only in the dominant language of the country, e.g., English in the United States, without special concern for student comprehension. This approach violates the civil rights of limited English proficient children which are protected under the 1974 Supreme Court decision in Lau v. Nichols. Sometimes called language submersion (Baker, 2000).


The Structured Oral Language Observation Matrix, developed by the San Jose Area (California) Bilingual Consortium, is used to assess oral proficiency only. The SOLOM is sufficiently generic to be applicable to languages other than English. The SOLOM is not a test per se, but rather a rating scale that teachers can use to assess their students’ command of oral language on the basis of what they observe on a continual basis in a variety of situations-class discussions, playground interactions, encounters between classes. The teacher is responsible for matching students’ performance in 5 domains to the rating scale. SOLOM scores represent whether a student can participate in oral language tasks typically expected in the classroom at his or her grade level. However, it should not be used as the sole measure of a student’s proficiency in academic English (Hargett, 1998).

structured immersion

In this program, language minority students receive all of their subject matter instruction in their second language. The teacher uses a simplified form of the second language. Students may use their native language in class; however, the teacher uses only the second language (Snow, 1986). The goal is to help minority language students acquire proficiency in English while at the same time achieving in content areas. Also SDAIE and SEI.


The teaching of minority language students through the medium of a majority language without special language assistance. Also referred to as “sink or swim”; violates civil rights guarantees under the Supreme Court’s Lau v. Nichols (1974) decision (Crawford, 1997).

subtractive bilingualism

Occurs in an environment in which the second language and culture is intended to replace the first language/culture. This is linked to lower self-esteem and loss of cultural or ethnic identity. Instructional programs such as immersion and TBE have subtractive bilingualism as their goal (Lambert, 1982). The opposite of additive bilingualism.



Within the Consolidated State Application, a knowledgeable prediction, or anticipation, of how well students will performance at some point in the future.

target language

The language that a child is learning as a second language. For English language learners in the US, the target language is English. For native English speakers in dual language programs, the target language might be Chinese or Spanish.


Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is a professional association of teachers, administrators, researchers and others concerned with promoting scholarship, the dissemination of information, and strengthening of instruction and research in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages and dialects.


Teaching English as a second language.

Threshold theory

Research on thinking and bilingualism suggests two “thresholds”, each a level of language competence in the first or second language that must be passed to reach the next level of competence. The three levels are limited bilingual, less balanced bilingual (age-appropriate competence in one language) and balanced bilingual (age-appropriate competence in both languages). The Threshold theory, developed by linguist Jim Cummins, helps to explain why language minority children taught only through the second language may fail in school and why children educated in developmental bilingual programs may have a cognitive advantage over monolingual students (Baker & Jones, 1998).

Title I

Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged of the ESEA of 1965 as amended in 2001, supports programs to assist economically disadvantaged and at-risk students. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, Title I includes provisions for instruction and assessment of English language learners for academic achievement and English language proficiency.

Title II

Preparing, Training and Recruiting High Quality Teachers and Principals, authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Title II, as amended. The purposes of this title are to provide assistance to State and local educational agencies and to institutions of higher education with teacher education programs to implement projects designed to improve teaching and learning in the core academic subjects; to collect and disseminate exemplary mathematics and science education instructional materials; to reform teacher preparation and certification standards; and to develop comprehensive, performance-based assessment and professional development strategies that will enhance connections between assessment, teaching, and student learning. Funds can be used to provide training to teachers who work with limited English proficient students (US Department of Education,

Title III

Language Instruction for Limited English Proficient Students and Immigrants (US Department of Education, Title III under the No Child Left Behind Act consolidates the 13 bilingual and immigrant education programs formerly entitled by Title VII of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 into a State formula program and increases flexibility and accountability. (Most of the consolidation is accomplished only if the appropriation is at least $650 million.) The focus of the title is on assisting school districts in teaching English to limited English proficient students and in helping these students meet the same challenging State standards required of all other students (U.S. Department of Education,

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The Title VI regulatory requirements have been interpreted to prohibit denial of equal access to education because of a language minority student’s limited proficiency in English (Lyons, 1992).

Title VII

Title VII of the ESEA of 1965, as amended; see Bilingual Education Act. Under NCLB, Title VII is Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education. Within this title, the federal government continues its work with local education agencies, Indian tribes and organizations, postsecondary institutions, and other entities toward the goal of ensuring that programs that serve Indian children are of the highest quality and provide not only the basic elementary and secondary educational needs, but also the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of these children.

Title IX

Title IX of the ESEA of 1965 as amended


Total Physical Response (TPR) is a language-learning approach based on the relationship between language and its physical representation or execution. Emphasizes the use of physical activity for increasing meaningful learning opportunities and language retention. A TPR lesson involves a detailed series of consecutive actions accompanied by a series of commands or instructions given by the teacher. Students respond by listening and performing the appropriate actions (Asher, 1981).


One of the fundamentals of bilingual education is that knowledge and skills learned in the native language may be transferred to English. This holds true for content knowledge and concepts as well as language skills, such as orthography and reading strategies. The transfer of skills shortens the developmental progression of these skills in the second language. Language skills that are not used in the first language may need to be explicitly taught in the course of second language development, but content area knowledge does not need to be explicitly retaught as long as the relevant English vocabulary is made available (Hakuta, 1990).

transitional bilingual education (TBE)

TBE is an instructional program in which subjects are taught through two languages–English and the native language of the English language learners — and English is taught as a second language. English language skills, grade promotion and graduation requirements are emphasized and L1 is used as a tool to learn content. The primary purpose of these programs is to facilitate the LEP student’s transition to an all-English instructional environment while receiving academic subject instruction in the native language to the extent necessary. As proficiency in English increases, instruction through L1 decreases. Transitional bilingual education programs vary in the amount of native language instruction provided and the duration of the program (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994). TBE programs may be early-exit or late-exit, depending on the amount of time a child may spend in the program.

two-way bilingual education

See dual language program.

two-way immersion education

See dual language program.



Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) programs combine language education with instruction in job-specific skills (Crandall, 1985).



The Woodcock-Muñoz Language Survey is intended to provide information on a student’s cognitive and academic language proficiency (CALP). It is individually administered. It has both English and Spanish forms, with tests for oral language ability as well as reading and writing. All items are scored as right or wrong; there are no productive tasks-such as original writing or spoken discourse-scored on a rating scale. Combined, the scores on the tests yield a broad language ability score. The test is designed to represent the language abilities expected at all ages or grade levels from preschool through college (Hargett, 1998).