Training Introduction

Training Introduction

This training resource is meant to help educators use Rubric 1 (Speaking, Listening, Interaction, and Reading) to complete evaluations of their ELs’ language use for reclassification by providing video examples of students using language at various grades and proficiency levels. This training also provides additional criteria and resources that can be used in conjunction with reclassification Rubric 1 to help in decision-making.

The training is separated into grade clusters that match the reclassification language use rubrics (K, 1, 2-3, 4-12). Educators may view sections for all grades and/or clusters or may view only those sections for the grade/cluster that they teach and for which they will be completing rubrics. It is best to view as many examples as possible, though, to gain the deepest understanding of differences in English proficiency.

This training only presents a limited number of short video clips and writing samples meant to provide benchmarks of language use at various grades for educators. When considering their ELs’ language proficiency for reclassification, it is critical that educators observe their students over time in various contexts and use multiple, in-class work samples to make their determinations.

Educators must review the reclassification guidelines and language use rubrics thoroughly prior to completing this training. They can be found on the PDE EL webpage. In addition, it is helpful to review the WIDA speaking and writing rubrics as well as the performance definitions for expressive and receptive language domains. These tools can be used to help discern between levels on the reclassification language use rubrics and are referenced throughout this training.

How to collect the needed evidence for completing the rubrics

The ratings that educators give students based on the criteria contained in the reclassification rubrics and other tools that may be used to help make those decisions must be based on observations of students over time. Educators should familiarize themselves with the rubrics and other information in this tool well in advance of the point at which they will complete the reclassification process. Evaluation ratings should be completed near the end of the school year before ACCESS for ELLs scores are returned, but the evaluations of students’ language use should begin much earlier in the school year. Educators should start making observations of their students in April and early to mid-May is an appropriate time to complete the process with final scores.

Educators do not need to conduct discrete, formal observations of their students for this purpose. Rather, they should observe how their ELs use language in relation to these criteria throughout the latter part of the second semester. They can then complete the rubrics based on these observations and without having to add another activity to their schedule beyond completing the forms themselves. Evaluating ELs’ language use using these criteria is a valuable formative assessment activity in addition to being required for reclassification.

PDE does not require that educators formally document the evidence used to justify ratings and/or recommendations. Decisions about what kinds of evidence must be documented and how it is done should be made by local school administrators. The reclassification decision, along with the scores from all rubrics and any teacher notes, must be documented and shared with parents, however.

Please consult with your district EL administrator for all local policies and procedures related to reclassification.


Since students should be selected for reclassification evaluation based on WIDA scores from the previous year that indicate a reasonable chance of reaching 4.5 overall composite in the year that they are evaluated, it should be extremely rare that the students who are being evaluated meet the definition of LOW in the language use rubrics. For that reason, this training focuses on students whose language use likely meets the definition of MODERATE or HIGH. No examples are provided for students who demonstrate language use at the LOW level. The descriptors for LOW are discussed and some additional criteria for LOW are presented, but only to provide a point of reference.


You may find it difficult to determine if a student meets the definition for a particular level of language proficiency. He/she may demonstrate language use that fits criteria for more than one level. This tool provides as much additional criteria as possible to help in making an overall determination. In cases that are not clear, despite a great deal of available evidence and the additional criteria outlined here, it is best practice to rate the student at the lower of the two levels that they appear split between.


The WIDA English Language Development Standards (ELDS) and assessment framework along with the PA English Language Development Standards (PAELDS) are the foundation for instruction and assessment of ELs in PA. These documents and their associated supporting components are referenced throughout this training. Below are links to the various documents and a short description of each.

Performance Definitions

Listening & Reading

Speaking & Writing

These define how students process, understand produce, and use language at the six stages of English language acquisition. These definitions are the foundation of the ELDS. There are two documents – one for productive language (speaking and writing) and one for receptive language (listening and reading).

Features of Academic Language

These features lay out the ways in which we should think about language use. They are broken down into word, sentence, and discourse level. It is important to consider all of these dimensions when making evaluations of language use.

ELD Standards Document

This document contains the standards statements as well as tables that contain Model Performance Indicators (MPIs) referred to as matrices. The Standards Matrices help educators envision what language development might look like in K–12 classrooms across levels of language proficiency for each of the five standards. The matrices are used in conjunction with the Performance Definitions to describe possible student trajectories for academic language development. The standards are broken down by content area (Social and Instructional Language, Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies). Within each content area, they are further broken down by grade bands, and then into English proficiency levels.

Speaking and Writing Rubrics

WIDA has produced rubrics for productive language that can be used for formative purposes by educators. They are also the basis for scores produced by the ACCESS for ELLs.

CAN-DO Descriptors

The CAN-DO Descriptors simply describe in general terms what students can do at various levels of language proficiency. They are broken down by grade bands and organized around the four key uses of academic language (recount, explain, argue, and discuss). Educators should use these when planning instruction.

All of these documents are contained on the WIDA website.

The PA ELDS are identical to the WIDA ELDS except that they include examples of content from the PA Core Standards, whereas the WIDA ELDS contain examples of content from national standards. The PAELDS can be accessed on the PA Standards Aligned System Portal.


Throughout this training, the vocabulary that students use is often discussed in terms of tiers. Vocabulary can be sorted into three tiers, which are described below. It is helpful to consider the tier of vocabulary that students understand and use because this provides important hints about their overall proficiency.

Tier 1 words are common words that students encounter in everyday speech. They can often be represented with a picture or gesture. Some examples of Tier 1 words are big, small, house, table, family, cookie, computer, and teacher. ELs learn a great deal of Tier 1 words informally in social settings, but they are often taught explicitly in beginning level ESL/ELD instructional settings.

Tier 2 words occur frequently and are used in various contexts, topics, and, most importantly, content areas. These are general academic words and have high utility. Another way to think of Tier 2 vocabulary is as cross-curricular terms. For example, the term “justify” and “predict” frequently appear in Science, Social Studies, and English texts. They are essential for understanding and explaining academic topics across content areas. Some other examples of Tier 2 words are explain, expand, summarize, and maintain. Tier 2 vocabulary are often the focus of explicit vocabulary instruction for ELs throughout the proficiency levels.

Tier 3 words are domain-specific vocabulary. Words in this category are low frequency, specialized words that appear in specific fields or content areas. They are often the words highlighted in academic texts and contained in content-specific glossaries. Some examples of Tier 3 words are isotope, tectonic plates, carcinogens, mitosis, and lithosphere. Tier 3 words are often the focus of instruction for all students throughout the grade levels and in all content areas.

Image of Tiered Vocabulary


Each example in this training will evaluate the language use of the students in the videos starting from the lowest performance descriptor. This is done to familiarize educators with the minimum components of the language skill. If met, the language use is evaluated against the next higher performance descriptor and so on. This is the progression that educators should go through when evaluating their students and this training is formatted to lead them through that process.

Videos used throughout this training were adapted from a learning resource originally owned by Alberta Education ( The permitted use of these videos is outlined at

You can proceed to one of the following pages:

Home (Reclassification Policy)

Documents to download

Grade/Grade band examples and walk-throughs

You can also select the section of the training module from the menu at the top of the page.