Serving English Learners: Laws, Policies, and Regulations

This printable guide, written for Colorín Colorado by Dr. Debbie Zacarian, provides a detailed introduction to federal laws regarding ELLs and their relationship to state and local policies, including information about ELL identification under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

What's Included

The guide includes five major sections:

Part I: The Role of Federal Policy to Ensure a Student's Civil Right to a Quality Education

  • The Federal Definition of an English Learner
  • English Learner Identification: Federal Guidelines, Home Language Surveys, and Case Examples

Part II: English Learner Instruction

  • The Legislation: Landmark Court Cases and No Child Left Behind
  • Federal Laws Regarding Instructional Programming

Part III: Annual Assessments for English Learners

  • English Language Proficiency Exams and Statewide Assessments
  • What are AMAOs?
  • Exemptions and Exclusions
  • Statewide Evaluations

Part IV: The Rights of Parents

  • Identification and Instruction
  • Assessment and Accountability

Part V: Summary of the Federal Overview

About the Author

Dr. Debbie Zacarian, Ed.D., is the director of the Center for English Language Education with the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton, MA, a non-profit organization for professional development, consulting, and educational research, policy, and practice. She consults with state agencies and school districts in the United States on policies, programming, and professional development for culturally and linguistically diverse populations.

In addition, she has authored numerous publications, includingTransforming Schools for English Learners: A Comprehensive Guide for School Leaders (Corwin Press, 2011); Teaching English Language Learners Across the Content Areas (Haynes & Zacarian, 2010, ASCD); Teaching Beginning Learners of English (Zacarian & Haynes, in press, Corwin); and Advancing Student Achievement: A Comprehensive Framework for Transforming Classrooms (Zacarian, in press, Corwin). Dr. Zacarian was also a columnist for TESOL's Essential Teacherpublication throughout its tenure.


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.