Statewide Assessment Programs: Policies and Practices
for the Inclusion of Limited English Proficient Students. ERIC Digest.
by Rivera, Charlene - Vincent, Carolyn - Hafner, Anne - LaCelle-Peterson,
The standards-based educational reform initiatives of the 1990s call
for assessment innovations in support of high standards. The move to standards
requires consideration of how assessments, both those currently used and
those that states and school districts are currently developing, will enable
all students, including LEP students, to demonstrate what they know and
can do (LaCelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994).
The assessment of LEP students' educational progress has long posed
a dilemma for state departments of education, which generally use state
assessment data to report student achievement. LEP students have typically
been either exempted from state assessments or included inappropriately.
Because kindergarten through twelfth grade students whose first language
is not English constitute a large and growing segment of the U.S. population
(Waggoner, 1995), it is critical that state education departments be able
to monitor and report on the academic progress of all students, including
LEP students, through statewide assessment programs.
To document state assessment policies and to develop policy recommendations,
The George Washington University (GW) Center for Equity and Excellence
in Education (CEEE) surveyed state assessment directors in 1994 [Note 1].
The GW/CEEE survey, Policies and Practices, 1993-1994 Statewide Assessment
Programs: Participation of Limited English Proficient Students, was sent
to all state assessment directors and was augmented with relevant data
regularly collected through the CCSSO/NCREL annual state directors' assessment
survey (Bond, van der Ploeg, and Braskamp, 1995).
Survey data from the fifty states and the District of Columbia were
aggregated and analyzed to examine state policy/practice questions related
to (1) the nature and extent of statewide assessment programs, (2) the
extent to which LEP students are included in statewide assessment programs,
(3) the extent to which individual state assessments are modified to include
LEP students, and (4) the extent to which state assessments are used for
CONTEXT OF THE STUDY
Although a federal definition of limited English proficiency exists
(see Improving America*s Schools Act, Title VII, Part E, Sec. 7501 (8)),
there is no common operational definition used by states to identify LEP
students. The variation among states in the criteria and instruments used
means, in effect, that a student could be considered LEP in one state but
not in another. In the school year 1993-94, when the GW/CEEE survey was
conducted, 3,037,922 LEP students were identified out of a total of 45,443,389
students enrolled in U.S. public schools in the 50 states and the District
of Columbia (Donly, Henderson, & Strang, 1995).
RESPONSE TO THE GW/CEEE STATE DIRECTORS SURVEY
Fifty states and the District of Columbia responded to the survey. In
45 of the states (88%), the directors of assessment or a designated person
in the assessment office completed the survey. Six of the states (12%)
delegated completion of the survey to the state Title VII (bilingual education)
director. New Hampshire provided partial data.
THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF STATEWIDE ASSESSMENT PROGRAMS
Forty-eight states, including the District of Columbia, reported using
117 assessment programs (an average of about 2.3 assessment programs per
state), covering a range of grades and subjects. Minnesota, Nebraska, and
Wyoming were the only states that reported not conducting statewide assessment
programs in 1993-1994. Iowa and Montana reported that they permit local
district choice of assessment instruments, although student achievement
data are compiled and reported by the state.
THE EXTENT TO WHICH LEP STUDENTS ARE INCLUDED IN STATEWIDE ASSESSMENT
Forty-five states indicated including some or all LEP students in at
least one statewide assessment program, although only 15 (33%) reported
the actual number of LEP students assessed.
Of the 48 states with statewide assessment programs, 44 reported allowing
exemptions for LEP students on at least one statewide assessment.
THE EXTENT TO WHICH INDIVIDUAL STATE ASSESSMENTS ARE MODIFIED TO
INCLUDE LEP STUDENTS
27 states (52%) reported that they allowed test modifications for LEP
students on at least one statewide assessment. Four states-Arizona, Hawaii,
New Mexico, and New York-reported developing, translating or using commercially
available instruments for LEP students in languages other than English.
California and Texas reported piloting statewide assessment programs in
a language other than English.
THE EXTENT TO WHICH STATE ASSESSMENTS ARE USED FOR
Seventeen states, about one-third, reported having a policy requiring
students to pass a high school graduation test to receive a standard diploma.
These states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland,
Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina,
Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Eleven of these states
(65%) permit a range of modifications in statewide assessment instruments.
Four of the states reported having test alternatives to the high school
graduation test. New Mexico and New Jersey reported permitting the use
of alternative assessments designed for non-native English speakers. Hawaii
and New York reported allowing alternative tests (not specifically targeted
to LEP students) for all students. Two states--New Mexico and New York--provided
versions of the required high school graduation test in one or more non-English
languages. Texas reported that it was developing a Spanish language version
of the statewide assessment program for the lower grade levels; however,
no plan is in place to develop a Spanish language version of the test required
for high school graduation.
The findings provide insights into overall trends in state policies
for including LEP students in state assessment programs and suggest directions
for further research.
Overall, the findings suggest that states are struggling to develop
appropriate policies to include LEP students in statewide assessment programs.
The evidence indicates that states have not regularly included LEP students
in most state assessment programs. Furthermore, policies for testing LEP
students are sometimes inconsistent within and across states. For example,
some states have policies to exempt LEP students from taking statewide
assessments and at the same time have another policy that allows LEP students
to take certain statewide assessments with modifications.
In addition, the findings suggest several areas for the development
of policies and extended research. First, states need to refine policies
for reporting LEP student data and to include them in state accountability
reports. Second, since there is little documentation of their effectiveness,
test modifications identified through the survey should be studied further.
Implications for using test modifications with LEP students who possess
varying levels of English language proficiency should be tracked and evaluated.
Third, in states that offer certain assessments in languages other than
English, further study is needed to ensure high technical quality of the
translated tests (Stansfield, 1996). In addition, studies are needed to
evaluate the best strategies for administering translated tests (e.g.,
test format). And, finally, for the seventeen states that require high
school graduation tests, there is a need to study the validity of the assessments
for LEP students and to identify strategies for allowing LEP students to
participate in these assessments early on and in meaningful ways.
1. This research was carried out with funding from grant # T003H10002
from the U.S. Department of Education. The views expressed in this document
are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of the
Department of Education.
2. The initiative in California has since been abandoned.]
Bond, L., van der Ploeg, A., & Braskamp, D. (1994). Student assessment
programs database. North Central Educational Laboratory and the Council
of Chief State School Officers: Oak Brook, IL.
Donly, B., Henderson, A., & Strang, W. (1995). Summary of the bilingual
education state educational agency program survey of states' limited English
proficient persons and available educational resources 1993-94. Arlington,
VA: Development Associates, Inc.
LaCelle-Peterson, M., & Rivera, C. (1994). "Is it real for all kids?
A framework for equitable assessment policies for English language learners."
Harvard Educational Review, 64 (1), 55-75.
Stansfield, C. (1996). Content assessment in the native language. ERIC
Digest. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation.
Waggoner, D. (1995). Language minority population increased by more
than one third between 1980 and 1990. Numbers and Needs, 5 (1).