One of the very first things your school will need to do at the beginning of the new school year is to identify which of your students are ELLs. You must identify the ELL students at your school so that you can know who they are, begin providing services, collect and analyze available data, and place them in appropriate classes and programs. We know that historically ELL students do not make the same academic achievements and gains as their monolingual peers. In order to begin helping and working with this population of students as quickly as possible, your school must make it a priority to identify your ELL population within the first few days of the start of school.

There will be two types of ELLs that you will need to identify, (1) ELL students enrolling for the first time (or students new to the New York City public school system) and (2) current ELLs (students who are already identified and have received services in New York City public schools).

Identifying ELLs Enrolling for the First Time

ELLs who are enrolling for the first time are students who have never before attended the NYC public school system. As such, they will not appear in ATS, and can be either kindergartners attending school for the first time or older students who are transferring from the another state, country, or a private school. These students are identified by (1) looking at their Home Language Identification Survey (HLIS), and (2) administering the Language Assessment Battery Revised (LAB-R) test.

Especially at the beginning of the year, but throughout the year until your school's enrollment closes, you will want to get an updated list of any students who have been newly admitted to the school. This will help you identify which students you will need to input into ATS to check for a test history, or which students' HLIS forms you will need to check to determine if they need LAB-R testing. This practice will also help you maintain a current list of ELLs in the school and make sure all eligible students are receiving services.

The Home Language Identification Survey

The Home Language Identification Survey (HLIS) is filled out only once by the student's parent/guardian when the student is first enrolled in the New York City public school system. On the HLIS form, parents/guardians answer questions about which language the student speaks in different places/situations. The current English HLIS form can be downloaded here: external image pdf.png HLIS_5_24_07_ENGLISH.pdf
HLIS forms in additional languages can be found on the DOE page:

Someone at the school (preferably the ESL coordinator, administrator, or knowledgeable teacher) must look at the HLIS immediately to see which languages have been checked off. If the parent/guardian checked "Other" for at least one box in the first section (questions 1-4) AND at least two boxes in the second section (questions 5-8), then the student is considered to have a home language other than English and must legally be tested with the Language Assessment Battery Revised (LAB-R).

To finish filling out the HLIS form for all students new to the NYC public school system, fill in the section that says OTEL code to indicate the student's home language. If the student is not eligible for LAB-R testing write "NO" to indicate that English is his or her home language. If the student has a home language other than English, and is therefore eligible for LAB-R testing, then write the code that corresponds to the student's home language ("SP" is used for Spanish, and other codes can be looked up in ATS).

Next, someone from the school (preferably the ESL coordinator or an administrator) must sign off on the form. It may be easier to do this step after students have been LAB-R tested so that you know whether they are proficient in English or eligible for ESL services. If the student is not eligible for LAB-R testing, simply check that box and then sign and date the form. If the student is eligible for LAB-R testing, check that box and check off what program the student has been placed in. For example, you may mark "ESL" for students receiving ESL services, or you may mark "Neither" if the student was tested but passed the LAB-R. Then sign and date the form.

Some General Tips:
  • If your HLIS form has a white and yellow carbon copy, keep the white copy in the student's file and the yellow copy with the ESL coordinator or with the ESL administrative files.
  • If your HLIS forms do not have a yellow carbon copy, make a photocopy of the completed form and keep all copies together with the ESL coordinator or with the ESL administrative files.
  • You may want to organize the copies by grade and/or class.
  • You will need to send Title III Family Letters to families of students who are new ELLs or students who were tested but determined not to be an ELL (because they tested proficient on the LAB-R).

Administering the LAB-R

The LAB-R is given to all eligible students (when their HLIS form indicates that their home language is not English) to check their level of English ability and determine if they are eligible for ESL services. The test is administered individually and can take anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour (particularly for students in grades 2 and up who have to take listening, speaking, reading and writing tests). Students who need to take the LAB-R must be tested within 10 days of enrolling at your school.

When you are done testing the student, count up all of their correct answers. For grades K-3, you only need to count the number of "R" or correct bubbles. For grades 4 and up you will need to use the answer key. Then you will need to compare each student's score to the cut score range for the student's grade. The cut score chart will tell you if the student scored at the beginning/intermediate or advanced level, making them eligible for ESL services. If the student's score is higher than the range for the advanced level, the student is considered proficient in English and is ineligible for ESL services.

For all students whose home language is Spanish, you will also need to administer the Spanish LAB-R to determine the student's proficiency in Spanish.

Check that you have all of the student's biographical information filled out on the front of the LAB-R answer document because all answer documents (English and Spanish) must be delivered to the ISC. You may wish to keep a list of all student's scores so that you have access to them before they get scanned and uploaded to ATS.

For more information about the LAB-R, you can view the 2011-2012 LAB-R Assessment Memo from the NYC DOE:

Identifying Current ELLs

Your "current" ELLs are students who have previously been serviced and enrolled in the NYC public school system, and therefore should already have a LAB-R or NYSESLAT score listed in ATS. Unfortunately, you will need to wait until the NYSESLAT scores from the previous spring are released on ATS to find out this information. This may happen as early as August or can be as late as October. Once the information is available there are a few reports that you can print out. One report is the test history report (ATS code REXH) which lists every student's scores for any city or state test they have taken. There is also a report called the RLAT which provides you with a list of all ESL eligible students.

For the test history report, look to see which students have a "LAT" score for the current year. If a student has a "LAT" score it means he or she took the NYSESLAT, and the letters and digits next to the "LAT" tell you the last time the student took the test. For example, "SP09" means the student took the NYSESLAT in the spring of 2009. Across from the LAT listing is a letter that tells you the final decision for the student's level of English Proficiency. The letters you may see include:

  • B (which means beginner);
  • I (which means intermediate);
  • A (which means advanced); or
  • P (which means proficient).

Students whose most recent score lists a B, I, or A are your "current" ELLs and need services for the year. Students who have a "P" are considered proficient and are no longer required to receive ESL services.

Analyzing NYSESLAT Sub-Tests

In addition to finding the students' overall decision, or English proficiency level, you will also find on the reports students' raw scores for each of the NYSESLAT's four tests: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

To arrive at the final "decision" about a student's proficiency level, the student's reading and writing scores are added together, and the speaking and listening scores are added together. A proficiency level is assigned to each "subset" based on the student's scores. In order for the student's to move their overall or final decision up a proficiency level, they need to move up in both their reading/writing proficiency level and listening/speaking proficiency level.

There are conversion charts provided by the city that will tell you a student's reading/writing or listening/speaking proficiency level based on their combined raw scores. You must first add up the raw scores (reading + writing, and listening + speaking) and then use the conversion chart to determine each "subset's" scaled score. Then you can use the converted scaled score and look it up on the scaled score range chart to determine that subset's proficiency level. Although the scale ranges change year to year, an example of what they will look like can be found in the August 2009 memo from David Abrams at the New York State Education Department regarding determining ELLs' proficiency levels:

Some General Tips:
  • You should to make a chart/roster of all the students in your school who are your current ELLs and new ELLs. This information can be organized by grade and/or class. This will let you have all their information in one place, and you can distribute the list to teachers so they can be aware of their students' data.
  • Include as much information as you can: If a student has already taken the NYSESLAT twice, record both scores. This will help you see which students are progressing, which are staying at the same level, and if any have regressed.
  • You will need to send Title III Family Letters to families of students who continue to be eligible for ESL and for those who scored proficient on the NYSESLAT and are no longer eligible.