Enrolling and Supporting Displaced and Newcomer Students

Ohio welcomes newcomer students and families displaced by conflict, environmental disasters, and other extraordinary circumstances every day. This guidance can serve as a resource when engaging and supporting the whole child needs of displaced and newcomer students. 

Ensure Immediate Enrollment and Language Assistance

To best support displaced newcomer students, schools and districts immediately enroll students and provide language assistance at registration.

  • Flexibility in enrollment requirements. Displaced newcomer students are likely protected as students experiencing homelessness and/or unaccompanied children due to displacement. The district or schools’ homeless liaison should determine eligibility based upon the McKinney-Vento Act definition. Homeless children and youth are defined as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” This includes students who are sharing housing of other persons due to the loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason. The McKinney-Vento Act allows students in temporary living situations to immediately enroll in schools in the districts where they are temporarily living. Immediate enrollment should occur even if the student’s records and transcripts are delayed or incomplete or they missed the deadline for registration. For more information, visit Students Experiencing Homelessness.

  • Information available to enroll. Schools and districts should not ask about citizenship or immigration status or require state-issued identification to enroll students. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education’s Information on the Rights of Unaccompanied Children to Enroll in School and Participate Meaningfully and Equally in Educational Programs.

  • Translation at registration. Offering registration materials and clearly posting instructions to access interpretation services in languages other than English will help non-English speaking families navigate the registration process.
  • Language Usage Survey. As part of welcoming all new students and their families at the time of enrollment, federal law requires that schools and districts identify English learners within 30 days of the student’s enrollment. At enrollment, schools and districts can administer Ohio’s Language Usage Survey to begin this process. Once the preferred language for the family is identified, communication should take place in that language. By collaborating with parents and families, schools can support the identification and instruction of potential multilingual learners. Access the Guidelines for Identifying English Learners webpage for more information.

Welcoming Displaced Newcomer Students and Providing Supports

The needs of a displaced, newcomer student may include other support services available at school. Supporting and encouraging the whole student, academically and non-academically, can bolster displaced and newcomer student’s acclimation to high-quality education.

Placement Considerations and Requirements

A displaced and newcomer student’s prior academic experiences may impact educational delivery methods, grade level placement, and supports. For more information about newcomers entering secondary schools, visit the Supporting Newcomers in Secondary Schools webpage. 

  • Grade Level Placement. Districts are to follow local policies for determining grade level placement of incoming students. This could include obtaining, interpreting, and reviewing existing formal transcripts. Homeschooled or students otherwise placed in alternative educational settings can receive age-appropriate grade placement. Students with incomplete records can be assessed for skills using diagnostic or placement tests. Student Readiness Toolkits with appropriate accommodations can be used to help identify instructional needs and placement considerations.

  • State scholarship programs (EdChoice, EdChoice Expansion, Cleveland, Jon Peterson, and Autism Scholarships) are available to all students residing in Ohio, including displaced and newcomer students. Students must meet the eligibility criteria for the respective scholarship program to which they wish to apply. Eligibility information and instructions on how to apply (click on the link for the desired scholarship) can be accessed on the Scholarships website. The chartered nonpublic school chosen by the parent/guardian/custodian submits the scholarship application for the student through the secure online scholarship application system. To learn more about state scholarship programs, visit Scholarships or call the Nonpublic Educational Options office at (614) 728-2743 for assistance.
  • Third Grade Reading Guarantee. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee is a program to identify students from kindergarten through grade 3 who are behind in reading. For students transferring after the start of the school year, schools are required administer a reading diagnostic in grades K-3 within 30 days of transfer. The retention requirement in third grade applies to all students. There may be exemptions to retention in third grade for newcomers. Translated information about the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is available on the  Translated Third Grade Reading Guarantee Documents webpage.  

Considerations for Newcomer Students Participating in State Tests

Ohio public schools administer the state assessments assigned to each student’s enrolled grade level, regardless of the student’s time in Ohio public schools. For newcomer students identified as English learners and/or who have disabilities, multiple supports and accommodations can be put in place to help students meaningfully engage with and access state assessments so that students can demonstrate their knowledge in each of the content areas. The Department also provides sample test items and practice tests for all tested subjects and grade levels. For more information, visit the resources below or contact the Office of Assessment at statetests@education.ohio.gov or (614) 466-1317.

  • Assessment Accommodations. Ohio's Accessibility Manual lists accommodations and supports available to English learners and students with disabilities participating in state tests.
  • Sample Test Items and Practice Tests. Both sample items and practice tests allow students to view and answer test questions that are like those that could appear on state tests. Teachers and parents also may use related resources to help their students know what to expect.   

Identification and Placement into English Learner Programs

Schools must identify students who are English learners within 30 days of the student's enrollment. Schools identify migrant students in accordance with federal law. Ohio defines enrollment as the date on which the school has both received documentation of enrollment and the student has commenced participation in learning opportunities. As a part of welcoming new students and their families, schools administer Ohio’s Language Usage Survey upon enrollment. After identifying potential English learners with the Language Usage Survey, schools assess students’ English language proficiency using the Ohio English Language Proficiency Screener (OELPS). The OELPS is the state-provided, standardized tool for determining whether students qualify as English learners eligible to participate in the school’s language instruction educational program. The Department provides Guidelines for the Identification for English Learners to support schools in this process. Access the English Learner webpage for more information.

  • Migrant Student Information and Resources. Some displaced newcomer students also identify as migrant students. The Ohio Migrant Education Center is responsible for the identification of all migrant children who enter the state and is the only entity authorized to make the final eligibility determination for the Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program. For more information, visit the Migrant Education webpage.

Identification and Supports for Gifted Students  

Ohio defines a student who is gifted as one who “performs or shows potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared to others of their age, experience, or environment.” The Department maintains a list of assessments approved for gifted pre-screening and identification. Screening and identification of gifted students applies to districts, not community schools or chartered nonpublic schools. Access the Gifted Screening and Identification webpage for more information.

Identification and Supports for Students with Disabilities

The Office for Exceptional Children provides guidance for implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004), in regard to identification of students with disabilities and instruction for English learners who do not make expected academic progress in school and who may benefit from specially designed instruction or individualized, intensive intervention services. Families are essential partners with teachers in supporting their child’s educational progress.  A resource guide is available to help navigate the educational process for students with disabilities. English learners with disabilities and their families can use this resource to obtain more information about the special education process, including early childhood and preschool education. Additional parent resources may be found under resources on the Office for Exceptional Children webpage.

Federal Guidance and Resources

Last Modified: 5/24/2024 10:27:42 AM