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Information about

ELL Policy: Federal Regulations

U.S. Capitol

These resources are designed to provide educators, administrators, and policy makers with information needed to understand federal policy regarding English language learners (ELLs).

Current ELL Legislation

Schools' Civil Rights Obligations to English Learner Students and Parents

Welcoming a student

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released guidance in January 2015 reminding states, school districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that ELLs have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential.

These guidelines include the following, and translations of the fact sheets are available below:

For additional materials and guidelines, see the Office of Civil Rights website.

Serving English Learners: Laws, Policies, and Regulations

ELL Regulations Guide

This guide, written for Colorín Colorado by Dr. Debbie Zacarian, provides an overview of federal ELL policy in a user-friendly way and describes how these regulations should be practiced in our schools. Topics include identification, instruction, assessment, and parent communication.

No Child Left Behind and ELLs

Raised hand

This section includes background information and discussion on how No Child Left Behind (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) impacts ELLs.

ELLs and Discrimination Law

Both the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) address discrimination against ELLs in their legislation and investigations. For more information, see the following websites:

Hot Topics

Statue of Liberty

The articles in this section are meant to inform discussion around topics connected to federal ELL policy, such as assessment, immigration, bilingual education, early childhood education, and the Common Core State Standards.

ELL Policy History

Supreme Court and Capitol

These resources provide an introduction to key pieces of legislation, court cases, and social issues relating to language policy throughout U.S. history.


Our policy section is made possible by a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The statements and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the authors.