ELD Standards Framework

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Set high expectations and ensure equity of opportunity for multilingual learners

The WIDA English Language Development (ELD) Standards Framework provides a foundation for curriculum, instruction and assessment for multilingual learners in kindergarten through grade 12. The ELD Standards Framework is centered on equity and fosters the assets, contributions and potential of multilingual learners.

Get the WIDA ELD Standards Framework, 2020 Edition and supporting materials.

Learn more about the Big Ideas and four components of the framework below.

Big Ideas

Four Big Ideas anchor the standards and are interwoven throughout the framework:

  • Equity of opportunity and access
    • This is essential for multilingual learners' preparation for college, career and civic lives.
  • Integration of content and language
    • Academic content is the context for language learning, and language is the means for learning academic content.
  • Collaboration among stakeholders
    • Stakeholders share responsibility for educating multilingual learners.
  • Functional approach to language development
    • This approach helps educators focus on the purposeful use of language.

These Big Ideas support the design of standards-based educational experiences that are student-centered, culturally and linguistically sustaining, and responsive to multilingual learners' strengths and needs.

To explore more about the Big Ideas, see pages 15-20 of the 2020 Edition.

Framework Components

The framework consists of four components, ranging from broad to narrow in scope:

These work together to make a comprehensive picture of language development.

graphic of standards framework with the four components nested within each other
The four nested components of the WIDA ELD Standards Framework

The Four Components

string of flags with symbols representing the five standards

ELD Standards Statements

The ELD Standards Statements provide educators with a connection between language development and academic content area learning. Like a string of flags hanging in the classroom, the statements represent the broad and ever-present language of the disciplines.

Standard 1

Language for Social and Instructional Purposes
English language learners communicate for social and instructional purposes within the school setting.

Standard 2

Language for Language Arts
English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of language arts.

Standard 3

Language for Mathematics
English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of mathematics.

Standard 4

Language for Science
English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of science.

Standard 5

Language for Social Studies
English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of social studies.


Want to learn more? See pages 24-25 in the 2020 Edition.

illustration of two students with a variety of materials that represent paper airplanes

Key Language Uses

Four Key Language Uses represent prominent language uses across the disciplines: narrate, inform, explain, and argue. KLUs bring focus and coherence to the language of schooling, helping educators prioritize and organize curricular planning for content and language integration. KLUs represent the most prominent ways students use language as they investigate and explain phenomena, support claims with evidence, and share stories about their experiences.

Want to learn more? See pages 26-27 in the 2020 Edition.

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Language Expectations

Language Expectations – written for all grade-level clusters – point to common, visible ways students need to use language to meet grade-level academic content standards. They are like language destination points on a map that we want all students to reach. Educators can use them to set curricular priorities in order to support students in expanding what they can do with language.

Want to learn more? See pages 28-30 in the 2020 Edition.

three plants of increasing size labelled PL1 PL3 PL6 in a single pot with tendrils reaching upwards connecting each plant

Proficiency Level Descriptors

PLDs describe typical ways multilingual learners might develop across six levels of English proficiency. They help us see how students are growing in their language development as they move toward meeting Language Expectations.  However, language development is not a linear process – like garden vines reaching for the sun, students may take various paths to develop language.

Want to learn more? See pages 31-34 in the 2020 Edition.

two students in classroom with paper airplane materials, a treasure map on the wall and a window with a row of plants and a string of flags

Putting It All Together: Yes You Can!

The 2020 Edition provides teachers with ways to use these components in combination with resources in their school and community environments, to support multilingual learners’ linguistic growth in and beyond the classroom.

Foundations of the ELD Standards Framework

This document articulates the foundational belief that every learner brings valuable contributions to everything they do.
These principles exemplify WIDA’s overarching foundational beliefs and ever-present Can Do Philosophy – in 14 languages and an illustrated version.
The theoretical foundations of the WIDA ELD Standards Framework can be found in Appendix F of the 2020 Edition.

Related Pages

photo of young students around a globe

Learn more about the 2020 Edition and supporting resources for rollout and implementation.

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Find opportunities, webinars and resources to better understand the framework and the 2020 Edition.

students working at desks

WIDA supports you in understanding the strengths and needs of your multilingual learners.

teacher with students at table with molecule figure

Learn more about the language students need to participate and succeed in the classroom.