English Language Learners (ELL)

Wilmette is known to celebrate its culturally diverse community. As part of this diversity, the community is home to many families who speak languages other than English. In fact, Wilmette schools serve students from over 20 different language backgrounds. To assist students who are not native English speakers, Wilmette Public Schools has established the English Learner Program (EL). The EL program is supported, in part, by a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education. The purpose of this program is to provide English support in all academic subjects to assist in the transition to all academic content.

A certified EL teacher screens all students whose families answer "yes" to one or both questions on the Home Language Survey. Kindergarten through first semester 1st grade students take the MODEL screening assessment. Students in the second semester of 1st grade through 8th grade are given the WIDA screener. Both of these assessments provide a measure of students' English proficiency in the four language domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The screening results will determine the services each child will receive.













Knows and uses minimal social and academic language with visual and graphic support.

Knows and uses some social English and general academic language with visual and graphic support.

Knows and uses social English and some specific academic language with visual and graphic support.

Knows and uses social English and some technical academic language.

Knows and uses social English and academic language working with grade level material.

Knows and uses social and academic language at the highest level measured by ACCESS® test.

English Learner Classes in the Elementary Schools offer:

  • In-class and/or small group pull-out support from a certified ESL teacher
  • Activities to support phonemic awareness and early literacy skills
  • Instruction in both content and social vocabulary
  • An environment that promotes acceptance and cultural awareness
  • Concrete connections to classroom instruction
  • Modified classroom assignments and/or assessments as needed


English Learner Classes at HMS and WJHS offer:

  • Direct EL instruction from a certified ESL teacher instead of taking a period of foreign language
  • Instruction in both content and social vocabulary
  • In-class support as needed
  • An environment that promotes acceptance and cultural awareness
  • More intensive English instruction for newcomer English Learners


Student assessment is a regular part of the District 39 School Improvement Plan. Students are regularly evaluated to monitor progress within the curriculum. This type of assessment helps teachers individualize instruction during the school year. In addition, the District provides annual assessments. The annual assessment assists in determining the best placement for the next school year.

Students in Kindergarten through 8th grade who report speaking a language other than English at home and qualify for EL services must take the ACCESS in January or February.

What is the ACCESS Test?

  • A measure of how English Learners are progressing in their acquisition of English in speaking, listening, reading, and writing
  • Results of the test are reported in June
  • Any EL student who reaches a 4.8 overall composite score is exited from the EL program
  • Students who reach exit criteria are monitored for at least 3 years after exiting the program. Teachers use both classroom assessments and district-wide assessments to monitor student progress.


The State Board of Education also requires all students to participate in the State Assessment known as the PARCC test in March. All students enrolled in the EL program must take both the ELA and Math assessment once per year. However, students who are in their first year in the United States are exempt from the ELA PARCC test for one year.

For any questions regarding the EL program, please contact Julie Anderson.