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Developing an IEP for an ELL

October 27, 2021
Advocacy, Special Education

When developing an IEP for an ELL, the IEP team must:

  1. Consider how the student’s level of English language proficiency affects the special education services that the student needs.
  2. Arrange a bilingual evaluation that assesses native and second language strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Consider evaluation results relating to language proficiency, such as the LAB-R (for Spanish-speaking students) and NYSESLAT results in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing, in the Present Levels of Performance.  

At least one IEP team member needs to be a teacher with bilingual certification who can determine how the student’s English language levels and learning needs relate to the child’s disability.

Determining if Bilingual Special Education (BSE) is Appropriate

If the IEP team determines that: 

  1. The student needs special education services for any part of their educational program (regardless of disability classification), AND
  2. The services and/or the special education class program need to be provided in a language other than English, such as bilingual speech and language therapy


  1. The student may be referred for an appropriate bilingual special education (BSE) program.

BSE Program Models

The special education programs available for BSE are Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) or Special Class (small, self-contained special education class). 

The bilingual program models for BSE are: 

  1. Dual Language (DL) classrooms, which serve ELLs and English-proficient students.  Students receive instruction half the time in English and half the time in ELLs’ home language. The goal in DL classrooms is for students to be able to read, speak and write in both English and in the home language. 
  2. Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) classrooms, which serve only ELLs. Students learn in both ELLs’ home language and English. As students transfer home language skills to English, instructional time in English increases over time. 

* ELL refers to a student identified as speaking another language at home who has limited English proficiency and who needs specific instruction and programming to help with learning English. Multilingual Learner (MLL) is another term used in New York City and across New York State that may refer to an ELL. MLL draws on the multilingual strengths of a student who speaks a language other than English and who is also building skills in another language. We use ELL in this tip sheet for simplicity and because ELL notes specific programming to help improve English language skills.