Proposed Amendments to Part 228 (Transitional Bilingual Education)

Proposed modifications in Part 228 affect various Sections of the rules to:

English Development Standards.  Since 2006, the rules governing bilingual education programs have relied on English language development standards of the World-class International Design and Assessment Consortium (WIDA) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison as the basis of the English proficiency test and starting in 2010, for English as a second language instruction.  Originally, the standards addressed all students, prekindergarten through grade 12.  In 2012, the standards were modified to apply only to students in kindergarten through grade 12.  WIDA has now completed English language development standards for prekindergarten (i.e., ages 2½ through 5½) and these also are being incorporated into the rules.  Both sets of standards are now defined in Section 228.10, and references to them in the body of the rules will direct the reader to Section 228.10 for the standards applicable to the ages/grade levels of the students being served.  Adoption of the prekindergarten standards will ensure alignment to the kindergarten through grade-12 standards already incorporated into the rules.

Screening Instrument.  Section 228.10 currently requires the use of the WIDA ACCESS Placement Test (W-APT™) as a screening instrument for use with students in the second semester of grade 1 through grade 12.  Students in kindergarten or in the first semester of grade 1, however, must be screened using a different screener, WIDA’s Measure of Developing English Language, or MODEL™. 

The distinction between the two screening instruments was added in 2010.  MODEL is a more nuanced, student-specific screening instrument that enables school district staff to make better placement decisions for students just starting school (i.e., kindergarten or beginning of grade 1).  Either test would be appropriate for students in the second semester of grade 1 through grade 12, and the proposed rule would provide school districts with the flexibility to choose which screening instrument to use for these students.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Instruction. The two components of a transitional program of instruction (TPI) are instruction or support in the studentís native language and ESL instruction. ESL is necessary to ensure that students who enter schools with little or no knowledge of English acquire the necessary skills to understand and produce academic English. The purpose of ESL is to provide direct instruction in the acquisition of the English language. Under Article 14C of the School Code [105 ILCS 5/Art. 14C], school districts are required to provide programs that will help English learners learn English. Therefore, the changes proposed in Section 228.30(d) do not create a new mandate. Rather, the changes clarify the existing rule to make clear that ESL instruction is not an optional component for TPI programs.

Staff Qualifications.  Starting July 1, 2014, instruction provided to English learners in early childhood classrooms must be provided by an individual who holds a professional educator license endorsed for both early childhood and for the specific type of bilingual instruction that is being provided (i.e., either instruction conducted in the student’s home language or English as a second language instruction).  This requirement was placed in Section 228.35(c) in 2010 in response to modifications to Article 14C of the School Code requiring the provision of bilingual education services by school districts to English learners served in preschool programs.  At the time the requirement was put in place, the agency received public comment stating that school districts would not be able to recruit a sufficient number of qualified staff by 2014.  They also suggested that then-employed early childhood teachers or those with bilingual credentials would lack the resources and time needed to earn the endorsement they lacked so that they would be fully qualified to instruct preschool-aged English learners.

As the July 1 deadline has been approaching, school districts and early childhood advocates have indicated to agency staff that they are anticipating staff shortages for the 2014-15 school year.  Therefore, agency staff’s enforcement of the current rule could result in potential penalties for school districts with preschool programs and may jeopardize services for English learners in these settings.  .  For these reasons, the proposed amendment would delay until July 1, 2016, the requirement for school districts to have fully qualified early childhood staff for their preschool programs.  It also includes an interim measure for school districts not now in compliance that is intended to promote planning and implementation.  The proposed modification will require school districts that are unable to meet the staffing requirements between now and July 1, 2016, to submit to the agency an annual staffing plan that includes a description of how the needs of English learners will be met.  In this way, the proposed amendment balances the need for English learners to have fully qualified staff with the difficulty some school districts are experiencing in recruiting and employing fully credentialed preschool personnel.  (See Section 228.35(c)(3) for further details.)

Finally, a slight technical modification is being made in Section 228.30(c)(3)(B)(v), which addresses placement of certain English learners in part-time transitional bilingual education (TBE) programs.  The provision was added in August 2013 and modified in response to public comment received.  The provision, however, has caused some confusion in the field.  Its intent is to communicate that under certain circumstances (i.e., when the native language has no written component or is one for which written instructional materials are not available), English learners may receive limited native language instruction.  Since the first sentence of the subsection does not make this clear, the modifier "limited" will be restored to the rule.

Initial Review by State Board of Education: May 2014

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