California Has English-Proficiency Test in the Works for Little Kids

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 20, 2007 1 min read
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California will be the last state to fully comply with requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act that a state’s English-language learners must be tested in English proficiency each year in grades K-12.

I reported recently that all states and the District of Columbia had cleared an initial hurdle in putting such tests in place. (A blog entry on the same subject is here.) But my article didn’t mention one nuance.

California is still lacking one small piece of the English-language-proficiency testing system required by the federal government. The state is testing English-learners in kindergarten and 1st grade only in speaking and listening and not also in reading and writing, as required.

But Deb Sigman, the director of standards and assessment for the California Department of Education, told me in a telephone interview this week that the California legislature decided in August to allocate $1.4 million for the creation of a literacy test for ELLs in kindergarten and first grade. Field testing is expected to begin in 2008, and full implementation is scheduled for the 2009-10 school year. Ms. Sigman said the test will likely be administered individually and be given to about 416,000 ELLs.

California will be the last state to comply with the English-language-proficiency testing requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act, noted Millicent Bentley-Memon, a senior education program specialist for the office of English-language acquisition of the U.S. Department of Education, in an e-mail message to me. She said all other states are testing ELLs in grades K-12 in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Ms. Sigman pointed out that children entering kindergarten aren’t exactly expected to “read.”

“There’s some language [in the legislation authorizing the test] about making sure it is developmentally and age-appropriate,” she said. “There’s an attempt to keep the testing time down.”

For more on how and why California legislators and education officials resisted measuring literacy for its youngest ELLs in the school system, see my earlier post, “California Isn’t Testing Young ELLs in English Literacy.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.