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Newcomer Program

The newcomer program is a specialized environment that services newly arrived, refugee/immigrant English learners for a limited period of time. The focus of the program is to develop students' basic English skills, establish academic literacy, assist in acculturation, and introduce subject area knowledge.


A newcomer student is generally one who is new to the English language (scoring at or below 2.0 on the MODEL or WIDA screener assessment), the United States, or the United States school system within one year of arrival. The newcomer program is available to students in all grade levels.

Students are held to the same accountability standards as their native English-speaking peers. These students must participate in rigorous, standards-based curriculum and high stakes assessments before they master the language of instruction. At a minimum, students must take mathematics tests the year they join the district and reading/language arts tests one year after joining the district. Some students also take science tests the year they join the district. The challenges and pressures are many for a newcomer student and this is one reason why West Fargo Public Schools has implemented a newcomer program.


The goals of the newcomer program are to:

  • provide a safe and welcoming learning environment that attends to each student's unique background and prepares each student to transition to a mainstream classroom, college, or career.
  • accelerate English language development in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
  • deliver high-quality instruction that utilizes best practices for beginning English learners in the areas of reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing, and math.
  • build a foundation for long-term socio-cultural success through supportive relationships with both students and their families.


The newcomer program provides individualized instruction to meet a student's unique educational needs. A student transitions from the newcomer program to their home building when they have reached a proficiency level exceeding 2.0 on the MODEL screener or ACCESS assessment or have completed one full academic year at the West Fargo Welcome Center.

Students are also considered for transition to their home building when they show readiness in the following areas, as demonstrated through a progress portfolio:

  • progress in reading (letters and/or letter sounds, reading records, unit assessments)
  • progress in writing (Steve Dunn writing samples with rubric)
  • progress in listening (MODEL)
  • progress in speaking (MODEL, SOLOM)
  • progress in math (number assessments, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction Assessment, daily RSA, essential standards within curriculum assessments)
  • progress in vocabulary (colors, shapes, classroom/school words, body parts, family, animals, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, food, clothing, occupations, transportation, time, money, feelings and emotions, community and home)

The newcomer program can be a student's first exposure to many academic skills; therefore, we do not expect a mastery of skills in the limited time they have at the Welcome Center. We do expect students to be close to mastery in some areas, including letters and sounds and some life and social skills. At the time of transition, most newcomer students are not able to demonstrate language and content proficiency as research shows this can take five to seven years.

The school-based language support program resumes English language development services at the point of transition.