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English Learners

The English Learner Program serves a very diverse group of students. There are currently 2,090 EL students, which is about 11% of the total student population. These students speak more than 80 languages and dialects. Our largest groups are refugees or descendants of former refugees, migrants or settled migrants, and long-term medical visitors.

Our EL team’s goal is to collaborate and advocate to inspire, challenge, and empower English Learners as they develop their social and academic English language while maintaining their multicultural identities.

English Learner Identification

As part of the registration process, Minnesota requires all families to complete the Minnesota Home Language Survey. MN Standardized English Learner Procedures

If a family indicates a language other than English on the language survey, the family is directed to the EL Registrar. The EL Registrar gives the student the WIDA Screener (grades 1-12), an English language proficiency test. The results from this assessment determine the student’s English Language Proficiency level and if the student would benefit from EL services. If EL services are deemed appropriate and parents’ consent, the student will receive these services at the school site from an EL teacher. If the student is a kindergartner, the site EL teacher will assess the student’s English language proficiency using the WIDA MODEL, a developmentally appropriate English language assessment for kindergartners. The results of this assessment will assist in determining if the child will benefit from English Learner services.

Each year, parents receive a Notification of EL Services letter in the mail. This letter explains the program and the types of EL services available to their child. If a parent wishes to refuse EL services, a meeting should be set up at the school site. This meeting will discuss the needs of the child. Parents must complete a Refusal of Services form in order to stop EL services.

On-going Identification

Minnesota is part of the WIDA© consortium.  WIDA© provides member states with high quality standards, assessments, research and professional development for educators.  Since Minnesota is a member of WIDA©, students are assessed using the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 English language proficiency assessment.  This assessment is for Kindergarteners through 12th grade students who have been identified as English Learners (ELs).  This assessment is given each year between February and March.  The results of this assessment identify students’ English language level. The information is used to determine student’s placement for the following year. 

The WIDA levels are used to determine services for EL services. 

Newcomer Services

Students with little to no English language skills are typically enrolled in our Newcomer Centers, which are located within our schools. Our Newcomer Centers teach students the basics of reading, writing, listening and speaking in English. The intensive, all-day programming also teaches math, science and social studies content to students. Bilingual assistance is available for students who need additional help.  Typically, students remain in the Newcomer Centers for about a year, until they pass assessments that show they have enough basic literacy and English proficiency to participate successfully in a regular education classroom.

Elementary K-5 EL Services

Elementary EL students receive language instruction at their elementary schools from a licensed EL teacher.  Students receive services according to their language level. Students may receive instruction through a combination of services, such as co-teaching, push-in or pull-out for small group instruction, or individual language instruction. The time provided for each student depends on the needs of the student and the type of services provided. The service time typically ranges from 30 minutes to an hour of EL instruction. EL teachers focus on developing academic language proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing.  The instruction is aligned to the Minnesota English Language Arts standards and the WIDA English Language Development Standards. EL teachers communicate regularly with mainstream classroom teachers regarding student needs and progress.

Middle School 6-8 EL Services

Some EL students may receive direct English instruction for up to two hours daily, depending on their level of language proficiency. EL students may receive daily language instruction in listening, speaking, reading and writing.  Students also develop academic language that is relevant to math, science, social studies and language arts. EL services may be provided through co-taught mainstream classes, small group instruction, sheltered English Learner classes, and consultation with teachers.  The services provided depend on the students’ level of English language proficiency.  Instruction is aligned to the Minnesota English Language Arts standards and the WIDA English Language Development Standards.

High School 9-12 EL Services

Students at the beginning English level (WIDA Level 2) receive two hours of instruction in Language Arts taught by an EL teacher. This course earns general elective credit.  Students at this level are also offered sheltered geography, and math, which earn credit towards graduation.  Students at the developing and expanding levels (WIDA Levels 3 and 4) receive two hours of instruction in Language Arts which is taught by a licensed English teacher and a licensed EL teacher. Students are also offered social studies, science, and math courses, which are either sheltered or co-taught classes. At levels 3 and 4, all courses earn credit towards graduation. For more specific course descriptions, see the Rochester Public School's Course Registration Guide.

Age Limitation:  Minnesota allows students to attend high school until age 21. However, the law states that there must be a reasonable expectation of graduation for students to enroll in the High School Newcomer Center. Students who are 20 years old and have limited previous schooling will be referred to the Adult Literacy program.

Exiting the EL Program

When a student has met the EL Exit Criteria, the student will be reclassified and will no longer receive EL services. Parents will be notified of this reclassification.  Students will continue their education in the regular mainstream classrooms. Please see the documents below that describe the criteria used by the state of Minnesota to determine when a student is ready to be exited from the program.

Kids Smiling in black and white photo

Program Contacts:

Kim McDonald
Director of Elementary & Secondary Education
(507) 328-4303 | Email

Brian Durgin
T.O.S.A.- Implementation Associate
(507) 328-4290 | Email

Bryon Bothun
Bilingual Coordinator
(507) 328-4237 | Email

Bilingual Staff

Language Staff Name Phone Email
 Anuak Ojulu Ochalla (507) 328-4237 Email
Arabic Suhair Abushara (507) 328-4246 Email
Arabic Nawal Saad (507) 328-4246 Email
Bosnian Heldovac, Ajla (507) 328-4243 Email
Cambodian Peng, Ponnareay (507) 328-4239 Email
Cambodian Sinnas, Alice (507) 328-4239 Email
Chinese Yan Li (507) 328-4238 Email
Lao P Sourath, Oukhane (507) 328-4238 Email
Somali Adan, Hani (507) 328-4247 Email
Somali/Arabic Addani, Ahmed (507) 328-4247 Email
Somali Hersi, Fadumo (507) 328-4247 Email
Somali Mohamed, Baris (507) 328-4247 Email
Spanish Martinez, Patricia (507) 328-4241 Email
Spanish Boggs, Susana (507) 328-4241 Email
Spanish Millan, Martha (507) 328-4241 Email
Spanish Cordovez, Alexandra (507) 328-4241 Email
Vietnamese Thuan Nguyen (507) 328-4245 Email