U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on Providing Services to English Learners During COVID-19 Pandemic

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) issued new guidance regarding the provision of services to English language learners during remote learning. The comprehensive guidance provides, in part, that while districts are operating via remote or distance learning:

  • Districts continue to screen new students to determine their English language status. Students must be screened within thirty (30) days of enrollment and may be done remotely.
  • Districts continue to provide language instruction services to English learners, although the DOE notes that “…schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided.”
  • Districts ensure a “continuity in providing services to English learners to the greatest extent possible under current circumstances.” Specifically, the DOE recommends that ELL teachers continue to provide instruction to students who were in self-contained English language programs or receiving pull-out services. In situations where an English language student participated in mainstream classrooms, ELL teachers will continue to collaborate with content-area teachers and provide support and accommodations to English learners.
  • Districts provide language accommodations for English learners in content classes that are being held remotely.
  • Districts may use Title III funds for teacher training if “specific to” the needs of English learners.
  • Districts may not exit an English learner from “English learner” status until the student “has demonstrated proficiency on a valid and reliable assessment that includes the four domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing.” If a district is not able to complete assessments for the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, districts may complete the assessments in the fall of 2020.
  • Districts should closely monitor English learners to determine if their proficiency has decreased due to limited instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is the case, English learners may require additional supports.

The DOE guidance in its entirety can be found at: https://www2.ed.gov/documents/coronavirus/covid-19-el-factsheet.pdf.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”) has also issued specific guidance on provisional identification of English learners and guidance, including strategies and resources, to help districts meet the needs of their English learners during remote learning.

The DESE guidance can be found at:


If you have questions or concerns regarding the content of this update, or any other questions regarding school law generally, please contact us.

This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.