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Alberta K–12 ESL Proficiency Benchmarks

The Alberta K–12 ESL Proficiency Benchmarks are a language proficiency assessment developed in Alberta as an informal, criterion-based assessment. They were designed for use by teachers of English language learners and can be used to assess language proficiency in the classroom context. In most cases, teachers will only need the ESL Benchmarks and multiple samples of student work to assess language proficiency in the classroom. Some teachers may wish to assess the ESL Benchmarks in reading in conjunction with a reading assessment (see Additional Assessments for English Language Learners).

The ESL Benchmarks:

  • provide descriptions of language proficiency for each grade-level division
  • support schools in delivering effective instruction and program planning for English language learners by:
    • identifying initial language proficiency levels of students
    • developing consistency in assessment of language proficiency for English language learners
    • promoting collaboration and communication about an English language learner’s progress among all of the student’s teachers
  • support teachers in:
    • assessing, monitoring, tracking and reporting language proficiency
    • communicating with students and parents to develop an understanding of language acquisition
    • planning for explicit language instruction within everyday classroom learning.

The ESL Benchmarks are used:

  • when English language learners enter the school system in order to establish baseline proficiency and to identify the level and types of instructional supports these learners require to be successful
  • on an ongoing basis to monitor language proficiency growth and to inform instructional planning
  • at each reporting period to assess students’ current English language proficiency
  • at transitions between grades, schools and/or programs.

Ongoing Assessment

Throughout the year, ongoing English language proficiency assessment is required to ensure each English language learner is developing the language skills and knowledge expected based on his or her individual abilities and circumstances. The ESL Benchmarks can be used to establish the English language proficiency levels of students at intervals throughout the school year (e.g., November, March, June) and can be compared to previous results to establish how the English language learner is progressing.


At regular reporting periods an English language learner’s current language proficiency level should be communicated for each of the strands (listening, speaking, reading, writing), showing the language proficiency level in which the student is currently working. It is also important to show how curriculum marks are impacted by limited English proficiency. Comments should also be included to explain to parents and students what the proficiency levels mean.

For access to the Alberta K-12 ESL Proficiency Benchmarks and further information on how to use them for ongoing assessment and reporting, go to Search ESL Benchmarks.