Arizona English Language Proficiency Standards & Levels

Instructor: Jessica Keys
Arizona's English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards apply to all public and charter schools in the state. They were developed by the Arizona Department of Education to ensure compliance with federal educational regulations concerning students with limited English proficiency. To learn more about these standards and how they are implemented, check out this article.

Arizona English Language Proficiency Standards

English proficiency standards for English Language Learning (ELL) students are a federal requirement, as set out by the U.S. Department of Education. However, the implementation of these standards may vary from state to state.

In Arizona, the state's Department of Education (ADE) developed its own framework to provide the necessary knowledge, skills and periodic assessment for its ELL student population: The English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards. To ensure a comprehensive foundation in the English language, the goals outlined in these standards are integrated into math, science and social studies curricula.

Function and Format

Arizona's ELP standards have been organized into five stages:

  • ELL I: Kindergarten
  • ELL II: Grades 1 to 2
  • ELL III: Grades 3 to 5
  • ELL IV: Grades 6 to 8
  • ELL V: Grades 9 to 12

Each stage contains its own developmentally appropriate set of English language proficiency standards in the following four skill domains:

  • Listening and Speaking (LS):
    • Standard 1. Comprehension of Oral Communications: Active listening and gaining new knowledge from the ideas of others.
    • Standard 2. Delivery of Oral Communications: Effectively expressing one's own ideas and thoughts (orally).
  • Reading (R):
    • Standard 1. Print Concepts: Understanding conventional English print concepts, such as letter orientation, punctuation and alphabetizing.
    • Standard 2. Phonemic Awareness/Decoding: Identifying and utilizing phonics, syllables and other sound-related concepts in the English language.
    • Standard 3. Standard Fluency: Accurate reading of text, with appropriate phrasing and regard to punctuation. (Not required in ELL I.)
    • Standard 4. Comprehension of Text: Textual analysis through reading, including reading aloud, summarizing or retelling the story, distinguishing facts from fiction and responding to the text (answering questions or crafting a personal response).
  • Writing (W):
    • Standard 1. Writing Applications: Expressing one's own thoughts and ideas through different genres and styles of writing.
    • Standard 2. Standard English Conventions: Mastering conventional English letter forms (print and cursive), capitalization, spelling and other related mechanics.
    • Standard 3. Writing Process: Learning and using the steps of the writing process (pre-writing, drafting, editing, publishing) effectively.
    • Standard 4. Writing Elements: Further developing one's own writing through word choice, sentence and paragraph structure, voice, and other elements. (Not required in ELL I.)
    • Standard 5. Research: Gathering information through the appropriate selection and usage of reference materials. (Not required in ELL I.)
  • Language Strand (L):
    • Standard 1. Standard English Conventions: Identifying and using conventional English, including parts of speech (nouns, verbs, etc.), phrasing, subject-verb agreement, sentence construction and question words.
    • Standard 2. Vocabulary: Using standard English vocabulary regularly and in the relevant context.

Moreover, each domain contains a set of Proficiency Level Descriptors that allow a teacher to gauge a student's current ability in that particular skill. There are five proficiency levels:

  • Pre-Emergent (PE)
  • Emergent (E)
  • Basic (B)
  • Low Intermediate (LI)
  • High Intermediate (HI)

The caliber of student ability per each proficiency level varies by grade.

Performance Indicators

All of the listed elements combine into extensive sets of Performance Indicators: Basically, a set of diagnostic statements, pertinent to each skill standard and proficiency level. To better illustrate how these standards work together, let's take a look at one set.

ELL Stage I - Kindergarten: Language Strand

Standard 1 in this domain is all about using standard English in daily life and conversation. One Performance Indicator statement in this standard is:

  • This student will demonstrate knowledge of parts of speech by …

We can now use the five proficiency levels to gauge a student's progress in this standard, which assesses usage of nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, prepositions and so on. For example, here are a couple sets of Performance Indicators for verbs.

Pre-Emergent Emergent Basic Low Intermediate High Intermediate
PE-1 Repeating simple verbs (present tense, with support) E-1 Selecting simple verbs (present tense, with support) B-1 Using simple verbs with subject-verb agreement (present tense, with support) LI-1 Using simple verbs with subject-verb agreement (present tense) HI-1 Using simple verbs with subject-verb agreement (present tense)
PE-2 Repeating forms of the verb to be (present tense) E-2 Conjugating forms of the verb to be (present tense, with support) B-2 Conjugating forms of the verb to be (present tense) LI-2 Using forms of the verb to be (present tense, with support) HI-2 Using forms of the verb to be (present tense)

So, a kindergarten student who uses verbs like am, are and is with help from a teacher may be considered to be performing at a low intermediate level in that particular area of that standard. These coded indicators are also used in lesson plans. For example:

  • Classwork that utilizes skills at the same level described above may be represented by the code I-L-1(V):LI-2, decoded as Stage - Domain - Standard Number (Subject): Performance Indicator.

There are many Performance Indicators, and you can find complete charts for each stage and domain on Arizona's Department of Education website (

More For Teachers features a variety of online English resources, including courses and focused lessons, for the benefit of educational professionals and students of all ages. Our Resources for Teaching English Language Learners course hub is a great place to begin, covering the basics of ELL pedagogy, activity ideas for the classroom, plus lesson modifications, assessment information, how to work with parents and more.

Our further selection of ELL/ESL resources includes:

…and more! Since is 100% online and self-paced, all you need to succeed is a computer or mobile, plus an internet connection and the time on your hands.

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.