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Home > English Learners > ESL & Bilingual Education Program Models > Crafting a Plan

Crafting a Lau Plan

What is a Lau Plan? A Lau Plan, named after the landmark Lau vs. Nichols U.S. Supreme Court Decision of 1974, is an equal access plan that protects English Learners (ELs). The plan describes what a School Administrative Unit (SAU) will do to:

  • identify its ELs;
  • design an effective program to meet EL needs, including a Language Acquisition Committee (LAC) and Individual Language Acquisition Plans (ILAP);
  • employ appropriate English-as-a-second-language or bilingual personnel (or both);
  • align the instruction of ELs to state content standards; and
  • provide ongoing authentic assessments to ascertain their growth in English language proficiency by administering annually the ACCESS for ELLs® 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 SAU may veto, alter, or affect implementation that is contrary to the SAU's Lau Plan. However, revisions and updates for subsequent board action may be submitted 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.
  2. Create a committee to implement the Plan. A language assessment committee (LAC) is created at either the building or SAU level. The committee is established to advise on identifying, serving, assessing, and eventually exiting an English 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 EL 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 EL 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 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 (click on link). 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 EL student by using a language proficiency instrument - the W-APTTM or MODELTM are used to screen.  Maine requires that all ELs be administered annually the ACCESS for ELLs®.
    • 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 Learners. An appropriate program and comprehensible academic studies must be developed to accommodate the student's English proficiency level needs. This program is aligned to state standards as required by statute.

    A description of an EL program would include a schedule of EL instruction developed with the student's EL and regular content teacher, integrative materials used to support that instruction, extracurricular activities, a line item budget dedicated to supporting the EL 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 EL program. Maine stipulates that a Composite Score of Level 6 on the ACCESS for ELLs®is required to exit from an EL educational program.  Formative multiple measures are needed that include language proficiency tests, psychometric tests, portfolios, and a comprehensive review of all aspects of EL 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 for Civil Rights Memorandum. Such credentials are often part of a state teacher licensure system. EL 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).
  7. Set guidelines for monitoring reclassified, exited students. When transferring an EL to another program or reclassifying him/her as English fluent (former LEP), 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 two years after the exit from ESL. Sometimes, it becomes necessary for an EL to return to an ESL intervention, again following established program guidelines.
  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.    aaaaaaa An adopted copy of the district’s Lau Plan must be forwarded to the ESL Program, Maine Department of Education, SHS 23, Augusta, Maine 04333.

For assistance in crafting a Lau Plan, contact Project Opportunity at the University of Maine at 207 581-3847 or

For further consideration: Policy Tools

Essential Components of a Lau Plan

Legal Foundation: Beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal statutes require a plan that ensures equal access for English language learners (ELLs) to a school's instructional programming. See legal provisions for links to full resources.

  • Classroom placement of ELs
  • English language proficiency classification
  • Standardized testing
  • Norm-reference testing
  • Authentic assessments
  • Alternate assessments
  • Monitoring for English fluency
  • Monitoring for achievement of standards
  • Re-classification as Former LEP
  • See also

Instructional Plan

Parental Involvement

  • Notification of option to have their children participate in program
  • Policy on document translations and interpreters for parents
  • Advisory committees
  • Diverse roles of parents in the schools
  • See "Families & Communities" at


  • Qualified personnel (ESL licensure)
  • ESL staff development
  • Content teacher staff development
  • Wage scales equitable to those of regular classroom teachers

Coordination Plan

  • Staff teaming
  • Cross-grade articulation
  • Portfolio maintenance across grades and content subject areas
  • Communication among multiple ESL teachers and content teachers


  • Staff
  • Materials
  • Professional development

Adjunct Services

  • "Special subjects" (e.g., humanities, fine arts, gym)
  • Developmental reading
  • Creative writing
  • Course electives (secondary level)
  • Extra-curricular activities, clubs
  • Acculturation support
  • Speech therapy (as appropriate)
  • Special education (as appropriate)
  • Gifted & talented (as appropriate)
  • Interpreter (as appropriate)
  • "At risk" services (as appropriate)

Other Considerations

  • Instructional space
  • Student transportation
  • Inclusion features
  • Civil rights
  • Celebrations
  • Peer support
  • Community ESL advisory committee
  • Mentoring
  • Business sponsorships

Why should a school district have a policy in place specifically for its English Learners? SAUs must implement policies for equal access of students for whom English is a second or new language. Those policies are set at the level of the local school board, but they may never supersede federal or state law. These policies may be referred to as a Lau Plan or an Equal Access Plan and may supplement a more comprehensive plan protective of the rights of all students. The important point is that SAUs must develop policy, and practice must reflect that policy. It may be helpful to view some examples of common misunderstandings that may arise regarding the need for an Equal Access Plan.

Of course, educational policies created at the national level are negotiated at the state and local school district levels as supports are provided to schools, teachers, and their students. In this way, federal policies affect classroom practice in the micro-interactions that occur between teachers and students (Cummins, 2001). Faced with the task of providing consistent and quality instruction within the current socio-cultural climate, content area and English-as-a-Second-Language teachers, as well as building administrators, are often left to navigate policy complexities and even contradictions with no support beyond their borders. Their tasks are uniquely daunting, given the complexity and interaction of the varied social, political, legal, and economic contexts needed to support the nation's 5 million English language learners, 40% of whom are enrolled in rural schools.