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Bilingual Education Column

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Wrestling with how limited-English-proficient students fit into the national education standards-setting process, an influential group of experts on the education of L.E.P. students has more questions than answers after wrapping up its second and final meeting last month.

The meetings, underwritten by the U.S. Education Department's office of bilingual education and minority-languages affairs and a few private foundations, began in the spring and focused on the standards and performance-based assessments embodied in the recently enacted Goals 2000: Educate America Act. (See Education Week, March 30, 1994.)

The group plans to give states, school districts, and national groups guidance on how to implement Goals 2000 with such students in mind.


The Council of Chief State School Officers announced at the meeting that it plans to survey states this month on how they have dealt with the needs of L.E.P. students in developing their education-reform plans.

The survey, which asks about issues ranging from assessment to technology use, will supplement data released in the spring in a report on state reform activities, said Julia Lara, a co-director of the group's resource center on educational equity.

The earlier surveys did not include specific questions on special-education and L.E.P. students because they were intended to be broad, she said.

Pilot surveys have been sent to six states. The council expects to start analyzing all the responses in the fall.


One of the group's more specific--and controversial--recommendations would penalize states that exempt L.E.P. students from statewide assessment programs.

Some states exempt L.E.P. students, citing a dearth of alternative assessments in students' native languages. But many advocates at the meeting argued that states do so to hide the students' poor performance on such measures.

If states did not find alternative assessments for L.E.P. students, those students would be scored the equivalent of a zero, lowering overall scores.

"There needs to be a cost'' for states that exempt students, said Edward DeAvila, an expert in L.E.P. student assessment.

While many participants acknowledged that implementing the proposal would be daunting politically, they said it is a first step toward holding states accountable for the performance of L.E.P students.--LYNN SCHNAIBERG

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