McA Enterprises, Inc.

1156 15th St., N.W. #1005

Washington, D.C. 20005

(202) 862-8514

Fax: (202) 862-9814

                                                                       

 

 

ASSESSMENT OF

 ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

 IN THE

 NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT

 

 

                                                                                    Maryln McAdam

                                                                                                                Moira Lenehan-Razzuri

Adapted from the 1999 Department of Education Peer Review Guidance for Evaluating Evidence of Final Assessments under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

 

 

Students with Limited English Proficiency

1.  How Should Limited English Proficient Children Be Included in State Assessments?

 

Statute:  Such assessments shall ¾

provide for the inclusion of limited English proficient students, who shall be assessed in a valid and reliable manner and provided reasonable accommodations on assessments administered to such students under this paragraph, including, to the extent practicable, assessments in the language and form most likely to yield accurate data on what such students know and can do in academic content areas, until such students have achieved English language proficiency as determined under paragraph (7); 

(Sec. 1111(b)(3)(C)(ix)(III)) 

Ø      Each State plan shall identify the languages other than English that are present in the participating student population and indicate the languages for which yearly student academic assessments are not available and are needed.  The State shall make every effort to develop such assessments and may request assistance from the Secretary if linguistically accessible academic assessment measures are needed.  Upon request, the Secretary shall assist with the identification of appropriate academic assessment measures in the needed languages, but shall not mandate a specific academic assessment or mode of instruction.

      (Sec. 1111(b)(6)) 

 

Description

Including LEP students in assessments in valid and reliable ways has been required under Title I since 1994, with flexibility for States to use a variety of strategies to make certain that all students participate in the assessment system.  A State’s assessment system must be designed to be valid and accessible to the widest possible range of students, including students with limited English proficiency.  All LEP students must be a part of the State’s assessment system.  Furthermore, test results must be disaggregated by LEP status both for purposes of reporting to parents, schools, and the public and for determining adequate yearly progress.  There is no waiver that allows the exclusion of students based on limited English proficiency.

 

States must assess LEP students in a manner that produces results that are valid and reliable.  However, the question of how to include LEP students in the State's assessment has no single answer.  Historically, most State assessments have been developed using only native English speakers.  As a result, assessments that have not been designed to include LEP students may not yield accurate and reliable information about what LEP students know and can do.  These assessments may in effect be measuring English language skills rather than the knowledge and skills in other content areas for which the assessment was intended.  It may therefore be necessary to provide accommodations for students who take such assessments.

 

The statute presents a framework for the assessment of LEP students that requires:

·        identifying and assessing the educational needs of the LEP population in the State;

·        developing assessments in other languages, as necessary;

·        offering reasonable accommodations for LEP students; and

·        “to the extent practicable” assessing LEP students in a language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable results. 

 

In addition to the State academic assessments in reading, math, and science, LEP students must be assessed annually for English language acquisition in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

 

One of the elements of the statute that is challenging to interpret, however, is what it means to assess LEP students “to the extent practicable in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable results.”  The following information is designed to assist States and school districts in determining when it is “practicable” to assess LEP students in a language other than English.

 

Language of Assessment ¾ What Does “To the Extent Practicable” Mean?

States must identify the languages other than English that are present in their student population and the levels of English proficiency among their LEP students, and use this information to determine if assessments written in languages other than English are needed.  If a State has a large population of LEP students who speak a single non-English language, it may be practicable and appropriate to provide assessments aligned with the State’s standards in those languages.

 

If many different languages are spoken by LEP students and no single language constitutes a significant concentration, it may not be practicable to assess in students’ native languages, but appropriate accommodations must be offered that reflect the instructional approaches those students are experiencing.

 

State and district considerations

Determining the most appropriate and most feasible assessment strategies for LEP students must be considered within the context of each State or district.  A one-size-fits-all approach is impossible given the variety of student populations, their language proficiency and concentration, and the range of instructional programs that are offered across the States.  Therefore, each State should consider the following questions when determining whether it is assessing LEP students, to the extent practicable, in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable results.

 

Who are the LEP students in the State or district?  What languages do they speak?

LEP students are students who cannot speak, read, write or comprehend English well enough to participate meaningfully in and benefit from the school’s regular education program.  School districts have an obligation to provide instructional services that will enable these students to overcome language barriers to academic achievement.

 

The first step in determining strategies to include LEP students in the State assessment system is to analyze the LEP student population in the State in order to decide what language and form of assessments will yield accurate and reliable information about what the students know and can do.  States and districts should consider what languages their LEP students speak, their native language literacy, their language of instruction, and their level of English language proficiency.  States should also consider their demographic trends to begin to predict the needs of future populations.

 

What is the instructional approach or language of instruction for LEP students in the State or district?

The instructional approach and language of instruction used to teach LEP students should be considered in determining how to assess those students.  Native language assessment may be appropriate if a student is receiving instruction in his/her native language or if a student can better demonstrate his/her content knowledge through his/her native language.  Native language assessment might not be appropriate, however, if a student has never received instruction in his/her native language and lacks literacy skills in that language.  If a child is in a specially designed English instructional program for LEP students, an English language assessment may be more appropriate, particularly with accommodations that reflect the special instructional strategies and approaches used in the classroom.

 

Would assessments (in subjects other than English) yield more accurate and reliable information if the tests were in the English language or in a native language?

The language and form of assessments most likely to yield accurate and reliable information on LEP students' performance are dependent on such factors as English proficiency level, native language literacy and proficiency, and type of instructional program.

 

Statute:  Such assessments shall provide for ¾

Notwithstanding subclause (III), the academic assessment (using written tests in English) of reading or language arts of any student who has attended school in the United States (not including Puerto Rico) for three or more consecutive school years, except that if the local educational agency determines, on a case-by-case basis, that academic assessments in another language or form would likely yield more accurate and reliable information on what such student knows and can do, a local educational agency may make a determination to assess such student in the appropriate language other than English for a period that does not exceed two consecutive years, provided such student has not yet reached a level of English language proficiency sufficient to yield valid and reliable information on what such student knows and can do on tests (written in English) of reading or language arts; (Sec. 1111(b)(3)(C)(x))   

 

Using English language versions of reading/language arts tests:  Among the factors to consider in making such determinations are the student’s English language proficiency in the four domains (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) and the number of years the student has received academic instruction in English.  The statute requires that, after three consecutive years in U.S. schools (other than Puerto Rico), LEP students be tested in reading/language arts in English.  Exceptions can be made only on a case-by-case basis for no more than two years.

 

Appropriate adaptations and accommodations may be needed to facilitate inclusion of LEP students in the State or district assessments that are administered in English.  Because of the diversity within the LEP student population, no single method would be likely to be effective for all LEP students.  For this reason, providing a range of adaptations or accommodations is important to achieving the goal of providing accurate and reliable information about what students know and can do. The State must ensure that validity and reliability of the assessment instrument are not compromised if adaptations or accommodations are used.   

 

Using native language versions of tests: Even with accommodations, there may be LEP students for whom a test in English is not the one most likely to yield accurate information on what they know and can do.  These students must be assessed, to the extent practicable, in their native languages in order to produce accurate and reliable information on what they know and can do in academic content areas other than English.  It should be restated, however, that native language assessment might not be appropriate if a student has never received instruction in his/her native language and lacks literacy skills in that language.

 

Whether it is practicable to assess students with a separate valid assessment in each native language depends on a number of considerations, such as the language of instruction, the alignment of the test to the State’s standards, the number of students who speak a given language, the students' proficiency in their native language, and the appropriateness of commercially available native language assessments.  For example, if a State has a large number of LEP children whose native language is the same ¾ for example Spanish ¾ it would likely be practical, and thus required, for the State to assess those students in their native language, if that is the most appropriate measure of their knowledge and skills.  Indeed, in most States, the population of Spanish-speaking students is large enough to justify the development of Spanish versions of the assessments.  Such assessments would need to be aligned with States’ academic content and achievement standards. The State also must ensure the validity and reliability of the assessment instrument. 

 

Has the State or district considered a variety of assessment options?

A State has considerable flexibility in designing its assessment system, provided the assessments are aligned with the State’s content and student performance standards. For example, the State might select commercially available tests, develop its own tests, or opt for a combination. If a State selects a commercially available standardized test; inclusion of LEP students should be taken into account. Is the test available in other languages? What are the effects on reliability and validity of test scores for LEP students if accommodations are used? On what populations was the test normed? Criterion-referenced tests, depending on their specific characteristics and psychometric properties, might lend themselves to accommodations during testing that do not compromise the validity of the scores. A State that is developing its own assessment system should include LEP students in the design, piloting, and field-testing.

 

A State might consider joining one or more other States in order to develop native language assessments. This strategy allows for leveraging various resources that might not be otherwise available, and also provides an opportunity to learn from the expertise of other organizations that are involved in similar efforts. It would require working through challenges such as alignment with standards from different States and ensuring LEP populations from all States are included, but it may prove a smart choice for States with particular populations of LEP students.

 

Has the State or district utilized all available resources to ensure that LEP students are assessed to the extent practicable in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable results?

A wide variety of resources are available to help a State or district include LEP students in its assessment system. For example, funds under Title I, Title II and Title VI may be used to develop assessments for LEP students. Federal technical assistance providers may also serve as resources. In addition, State and local funds, such as those from State/local bilingual education programs, may be available. Working with test publishers to incorporate specific requests or requirements in their tests is another way of addressing the inclusion of LEP students. States and districts may also request assistance from the U.S. Department of Education to interpret requirements and access technical assistance on these issues. Given the range of resources available, every State is able to take proactive steps toward fully including LEP students in the State assessment system in appropriate and meaningful ways.

 

Scenarios

Even after a State or district has determined the nature of its LEP population and how best to include its students in the State assessment system, there are scenarios that may exist or develop that can interfere with meeting the statutory requirements.  The following questions address some of those possible scenarios.

 

Would a State that has an English-only law be in compliance with NCLB assessment requirements?

NCLB requires States to include LEP students in final assessment systems used to hold schools and districts accountable for students’ meeting the States’ academic content and achievement standards.  This can only be done in a meaningful way if such students are tested in ways that produce valid inferences about the progress of LEP students toward meeting the State standards.  Toward this end, the law makes clear that for subjects other than English, if native-language assessment of LEP students is practicable, and if it is the form of assessment most likely to produce valid information on their academic achievement, then States must utilize such assessments.  Thus, a statewide English-only assessment policy would conform to NCLB only if the State could demonstrate, for subjects other than English, that no native-language assessment of LEP students is practicable, or that some other form of assessment is more likely to produce valid information on what LEP students know and can do.

 

If a State can show that native-language assessment is inappropriate or impracticable, NCLB still requires the State to provide reasonable adaptations and accommodations necessary to measure the achievement of LEP students relative to State standards.  Also, the State may supplement its statewide test with other measures that provide meaningful information about the performance of LEP students.

 

If the LEP students in a State speak numerous languages, none of which is most predominant, must native language assessments be provided?

This determination would need to be considered within the context of the types of instructional programs offered in the State and the level of English language and native language proficiency within the student population.  If there are no concentrations of LEP students with the same language, then they most likely do not have instruction in their native language.  So testing in English may be appropriate.  However, accommodations or adaptations may be necessary to ensure that such students are provided an opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do in a given content area.  The types of instructional programs such students are receiving and the accommodations and adaptations that are provided to them in those instructional programs generally can determine this.

 

2. What Are The Requirements For English Language Proficiency Tests?

 

Statute:  Each State plan shall demonstrate that local educational agencies in the State will, beginning not later than school year 2002-2003, provide for an annual assessment of English proficiency (measuring students’ oral language, reading, and writing skills in English) of all students with limited English proficiency, except that the Secretary may provide the State 1 additional year, if the State demonstrates that exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances, such as a natural disaster or a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of the State, prevented full implementation of this paragraph by that deadline, and that the State will complete implementation within the additional 1-year period. (Sec. 1111(b)(3)(C)(6))

 

Description

Beginning no later than the 2002-2003 school year, a State must require each LEA to assess annually the English proficiency of all students with limited English proficiency.  The assessment must include reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.  The Secretary may extend the time of the first test by one year for exceptional circumstances, such as natural disasters or an unforeseen State financial crisis.

 

Information to Determine the Need for Test in Language(s) Other Than English

 

Primary Languages in Grade ___

Number of Limited English Proficient Students

Language 1

 

Language 2

 

 

           

Participation Information for Grade ___

 

 

General

Number

Total student population

 

Total limited English proficient students

 

Total number of students who attended school in the LEA for a full academic year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Participation

Included in

Assessment

Included in

Measures of

Progress

Number of limited English proficient students included in State assessment without appropriate accommodations

 

 

Number of limited English proficient students included in State assessment with appropriate accommodations

 

 

Number of limited English proficient students tested with State standards-based assessments in their native language

 

 

Number of students who attended school in the LEA for a full academic year included in State assessment

 

 

 

Exemptions and Exclusions

From Assessment

From Measures of Progress

Number of limited English proficient students excluded