Lau Plan

Crafting a Plan

What is a Lau Plan? A Lau plan, named after the landmark Lau vs. Nichols U.S. Supreme Court Decision of 1974, is one equal access plan that protects ELLs. The plan describes what a school district will do:

  • to identify its ELLs,
  • to design an effective program reflective of their needs,
  • to employ appropriate English-as-a-second-language or bilingual personnel (or both),
  • to align the instruction of ELLs to state and local content standards, and
  • to provide ongoing authentic assessments to ascertain their growth in English language proficiency and in the comprehension of academic content.

Because the plan requires school board or school committee approval, no administrator or other staff member of the school district may veto, alter, or affect implementation that is contrary to the Lau plan. They may, however, submit revisions and updates for subsequent board action as frequently as necessary. A Lau plan is a "working document" that should be revisited frequently.

Essential components of a Lau Plan include the legal foundation, student assessments, an instructional plan, parental involvement, qualified personnel, a coordination plan, a budget, adjunct services, and other possible considerations.

Steps for Creating a Lau Plan

  1. Present a rationale for the plan. Cite the legal foundation for the Lau Plan as established in law. The most common citations are listed on this site under Legal Provisions. Add citations specific to your state, if they exist.

  2. Create a committee to implement the plan.  The committee is established to advise on identifying, serving, assessing, and eventually exiting an English language learner from a language support system. It also serves to notify parents about upcoming testing. The committee meets on a regular basis to monitor the language and academic progress of ELL students, including those who may have exited the program. The committee may also meet with the entire school staff to inform them of their observations and recommendations for meeting the ELL needs. 

    The committee recommends revisions to the Lau Plan as needed; these revisions are eventually re-submitted to the school committee for approval. The committee may consist of an administrator, a guidance counselor, academic content teachers, the ESL teacher, and tutor or translator, if there is one. Some members may be temporary, rotating, or ongoing.

  3. Create an assessment system to identify English language learners. Assessments for entry into a language support system should be based on several criteria rather than a single test. More detailed information is available in questions on student assessment and in the Initial Assessment section of this Web site. In general, the following considerations should apply:

    • Establish the presence of a student's non-English language background. This may be done through the use of a home language survey.
    • Conduct an assessment of the language background of the ELL student by using a language proficiency instrument. A listing of publishers of the most common and reliable English language assessment tools is available at
    • Review multiple sources to assure authentic assessment information; sources may include student writing samples, portfolios, exhibitions, demonstrations, oral interviews, and other assessment formats solicited from teachers and colleagues.
  4. Create a service delivery plan for English language learners.An appropriate program and comprehensible academic studies are developed to accommodate the student's English proficiency level needs. Such a program is aligned to state and local standards as required by statute.

    A description of an ESL program would include a schedule of ESL instruction developed with the student's ESL and regular content teacher, integrative materials used to support that instruction, extracurricular activities, a line item budget dedicated to supporting the ESL program, and ancillary services (e.g., interpreter services, speech pathology, computer literacy, special needs, gifted/talented) as appropriate.

  5. Establish criteria for reclassification, transfer, and exit from the support system. Document the results of all authentic assessments used to determine student exit from the ESL program. Formative multiple measures are needed that include language proficiency tests, psychometric tests, portfolios, and a comprehensive review of all aspects of ELL student performance (just as in Step 3). This determination is made by a language assessment committee -- not a single individual.

  6. Engage qualified personnel. As with other instructional personnel, ESL staff must be qualified with academic preparation in English-as-a-second-language, as stipulated in the 1991 Office of Civil Rights Memorandum. Such credentials are often part of a state teacher licensure system. Typically, ESL support services that do not supplant the standard curriculum may be provided by an education aide who is supervised by an ESL teacher in collaboration with the student's regular classroom teacher(s). More specifics are available in questions on personnel support.

  7. Set guidelines for monitoring reclassified, exited students.When transferring an ELL student to another program or reclassifying him/her as English fluent, multiple assessments (such as those described in Steps 3 and 5) must occur. Teachers in the student's new setting (with coordinated support of the ESL teacher) will assess the English-fluent student's academic performance with a view to observing English mastery (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) in formal and informal venues. Mastery of course objectives may require the use of criterion reference testing and other tools to determine how the student compares with his/her English-only peers. Language assessment committee members should follow up on the placement's impact within two weeks of the transfer and continue periodic monitoring for three years after the exit from ESL. Sometimes, it becomes necessary for an ELL to return to a partial ESL intervention.

  8. Submit the plan to the school superintendent for review. The team that wrote or revised the Lau plan presents its draft to the superintendent or an administrative team for their review. Once the plan is set to be presented as part of the school board or committee's public agenda, those closest to the plan should appear before the school board and superintendent to respond to questions or comments they may have about the plan.

  9. Superintendent seeks school board approval of the plan. Once the school board approves the superintendent's plan, the Lau plan becomes the official policy of the school district regarding equal access to students of limited English proficiency. It must be strictly adhered to until or unless it is revised and re-submitted to the school board.

Sample Plans: The State of Maine Department of Education presents several examples of Lau Plans that may be viewed at



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[return]  Berube, B. (2002, September/October/November). The three R's for ESL instruction in U.S. rural schools: A test of commitment. TESOL Matters, 12(4). Available:

[return]  Cummins, J. (2001). Language, power and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

[return]  Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory. (2003).Claiming opportunities: A handbook for improving education for English language learners through comprehensive school reform. Providence, RI: Brown University.