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50-State Comparison: English Language Learners (archive)

Education Commission of the States has researched English language learner policies in all states to provide this comprehensive resource. Click on the questions below for 50-state comparisons showing how all states approach English language learners policies. Or, choose to view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profiles page.

Key Takeaway

  • There are three funding strategies for ELL programs; most states allocate funds through their primary formula funding.
    • Formula funded.
    • Categorical funding.
    • Reimbursement funding.
  • Just under 30 states have state policies or department of education guidelines requiring ELL teachers to have specialist certification.
  • A few states, including New York and Illinois, require bilingual programs if a school or district has a certain number of ELL students who speak the same language.

Unless otherwise noted, all information in this resource was gathered from state statutes only and does not include policies in state-level guidance documents or arising from court orders.

50-State Comparisons 


  1. Percentage and number of ELL students (2011-2012)
  2. How is an "English language learner" defined in state policy?
  3. What methods are used to identify English language learners?
  4. Which program approaches does state policy authorize?
  5. Unique policy levers to promote parent engagement
  6. Does state make available state seal of biliteracy?
  7. What measures do schools use to reclassify students as English proficient?
  8. Are state-funded pre-kindergarten programs required to provide ELL instruction?
  9. Has the state adopted the English language development standards put forth by World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA)?


  1. Type of funding
  2. Funding per student
  3. How is funding distributed?

Teaching Quality

  1. What ELL training, if any, is required of general classroom teachers?
  2. Are ELL-only instructors required to hold a specialist certification or endorsement?

Unique Characteristics

  1. Unique characteristics

Related Resources


Nov. 1, 2014

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