English Language Learners (ELL) Program

Mission Statement:

English Language Learners (ELL) will meet state standards and develop English language proficiency in an environment where language and cultural assets are recognized as valuable resources to learning. 




To develop ELL student’s proficiency in English so he/she can participate more fully in the regular classroom setting.

Translation and Interpretation Services:

The Mercer Island School District provides limited English proficient parents with information in their own language so that they can make informed decisions about their children's education. This includes providing interpretation and translation services for vital meetings and communications. If you need assistance, please email ELL Coordinator Kristin Kim or Administrative Assistant Mary Newcomer.

Eligibility for Participation in the English Language Learner Program:

1. Information from the Home Language Survey (HLS)  is used to determine if testing is necessary (applying to both foreign-born and U.S.-born). HLS in other languages.
  • What language did your child first learn to speak?
  • What language does your child use the most at home?
2. Washington English Language Proficiency Assessement (WELPA) Placement Test is administered by the ELL coordinator either before starting school or within 10 days of attendance. The test covers listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.
  • If the student took this test previously in another district in Washington State, he/she does not need to take the test again.
  • If the student took a placement test in another state, he/she needs to take this test.
  • For those students who exited the ELL Program in another state, documentation is needed to support the exit status.
3. Students scoring at Levels 1-3 are eligible for ELL services:
  • Level 1 (Beginning, Advanced Beginning)
  • Level 2 (Intermediate)
  • Level 3 (Advanced)
  • Level 4 (Transitional) - not eligible

Parents/guardians are notified soon after testing.

4. Upon meeting with the parents/guardians after initial testing and gathering more information about the student, the ELL coordinator will recommend appropriate placement.
  • Eligible K-5 students are placed at their neighborhood schools.
  • Eligible 6-12 students take one period of ELL class at their respective schools.
All ELL students will attend regular class(es) while participating in the ELL Program.

5. All eligible students will take the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) Summative Test each spring to measure their progress and to determine future eligibility.
  • Those students who score at the transitional level on this test will exit the ELL Program at the end of the current school year and will no longer qualify for ELL services in the new school year.
  • Those students scoring at Levels 1-4 will continue receiving ELL services in the new school year.

Benefits of ELL Program Participation:

1. The ELL staff knows each student well. They act as the student’s advocate, monitoring progress and helping in communication with teachers to provide appropriate accommodations in class assignments and tests.

2. ELL students can receive additional accommodations during state testing (SBAC, MSP Science) such as text-to-text speech, partial translation, translated CDs in Science (if available), and/or administration by ELL staff in a small group setting.
*Those students who have been in the U.S. schools for less than a year can opt out of taking English language arts section of the SBAC.

3. Students in 6-12 grades have the Pass/No Grade option in more than one class.