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Published in Print: November 8, 2006, as ELL Test Reviews Postponed

ELL Test Reviews Postponed

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The Department of Education is giving state officials a small break on carrying out the requirements for English-language learners under the No Child Left Behind Act.

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Federal officials announced at a meeting of state officials late last month that the department will hold off for at least 18 months in making a judgment on whether the English-language-proficiency tests most states recently implemented pass muster under the law.

Instead, said Kathleen Leos, the director of the Education Department’s office of English-language acquisition, in an interview last week, the department will focus on providing “targeted technical assistance” for states on the assessment of English-learners.

As of last spring, 44 states and the District of Columbia had administered new, comprehensive tests for English proficiency, leaving a handful of states that have missed the federal deadline for the exams. Ms. Leos had said over the summer that the department was expecting to conduct peer reviews of those tests similar to the kind carried out this past year for states’ large-scale mathematics and reading tests. ("New Era for Testing English-Learners Begins," July 12, 2006.)

“There’s not a pass-fail yet,” Ms. Leos said last week, referring to the department’s reviews. Assessing English-language learners, she said, is “the newest area of development” in education for the states in complying with the nearly 5-year-old federal law.

The announcement doesn’t, however, change any aspects of the Education Department’s regulations for English-language learners.

‘Greatest Noise’

Robin M. Lisboa, the administrator for English-language learning for the Illinois state board of education, said that while she has some concerns about the NCLB requirements for English-language learners, she was confident that her state’s English-proficiency test would be accepted by the federal government.

State officials’ biggest concern expressed at the recent meeting, Ms. Lisboa said, is “they feel too many English-language learners are being forced to take the content assessments when they don’t have the English-language proficiency. That’s where the greatest noise comes from.”

Vol. 26, Issue 11, Page 22

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