FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

July 2014

NCEO Assists Consortium to Develop English Language Proficiency Assessments

A consortium of 11 states – English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) – is developing assessments to evaluate k-12 students’ proficiency in relation to new English language proficiency standards aligned to college- and career-readiness. The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) at the Institute on Community Integration is working alongside the 11 states and other organizations to ensure that the assessments and instructional supports provided to English language learners (ELLs) are accessible for all ELLs, including those who have disabilities.

English language proficiency assessments are required by federal law to provide scores on ELLs’ reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, as well as a composite score. The assessments are administered to students in grades k-12, and are used along with other information to determine whether students exit from English language development services. Thus, it is critical that the assessments are of high quality – and accessible to students with disabilities – so that they produce reliable and valid scores.

“Although we have a strong history in the areas of universal design and accommodations for students with disabilities and ELLs taking academic content area assessments, we are still learning when it comes to thinking through what needs to occur for assessments of English language proficiency,” notes NCEO’s director Martha Thurlow. Co-leads from NCEO, Laurene Christensen and Vitality Shyyan, agree, commenting that some of the toughest issues have emerged when thinking about how to ensure accessibility for ELLs who are blind or have low vision, and ELLs who are deaf or hard of hearing.

ELPA21 is producing two types of assessments, a screener and a summative assessment. The screener will allow schools to assess English language proficiency of students whose home language is other than English. It will be used to inform placement and make instructional decisions. The summative assessment will be administered near the end of the academic year and be used for school accountability and to determine whether students are exited from English language development services. NCEO is a national leader in designing and building educational assessments and accountability systems that include students with disabilities and ELLs, and it brings that expertise to its role in this consortium, leading the work of a team of states to ensure that the ELPA21 assessments are accessible for all ELLs.

The ELPA21 assessments will be field-tested in spring 2015. When the new assessment system is operational in the 2016-17 school year, parents, educators, and administrators in the 11 states (and others that may join in the future) will have a better system in place to assess student progress and to support preparation of all ELLs for college and career success.

The work of NCEO in ELPA21 is funded by a $179,921 subcontract from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the state of Oregon, which received a three-year Enhanced Assessment Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The 11 consortium states are Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia. Besides NCEO, the partner organizations in the project are CCSSO; Stanford University’s Understanding Language Initiative; and UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.

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