Education

New York Expands Testing Accommodations to Former ELLs

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 03, 2008 2 min read

States’ policies for providing testing accommodations to English-language learners are becoming more nuanced, something that experts in the field recommend.

GothamSchools reports that the New York Board of Regents has approved a new policy, effective this school year, that permits former English-language learners to receive testing accommodations on the state’s regular academic tests for up to two years after they are considered to be proficient in the language. The New York State United Teachers union, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, reported this news a month ago, but we bloggers are just picking up on it now. The union bulletin summarizes the testing accommodations allowable for ELLs in New York.

At least two states, Maryland (see Section 2 of the state’s policy) and Massachusetts, permit accommodations for English-language learners who have been reclassified as proficient in the language. (Find a map of state policies on testing accommodations for ELLs here.)

A guide and two research studies on testing accommodations for ELLs, which were commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and released by George Washington University’s Center for Equity and Excellence in Education, give detailed recommendations for providing accommodations for ELLs. But the guide and studies don’t address directly whether former ELLs should receive accommodations that are given to ELLs in a state. Barbara Acosta, a senior research scientist at the center, said the best practices study on testing accommodations for ELLs recommends that two accommodations be offered to advanced ELLs, and they may also work well for former ELLs: extended time to take the test, and the use of a bilingual dictionary or glossary. But she doesn’t think it would be beneficial for former ELLs to receive oral translation of tests, which is an accommodation available to ELLs in New York. (She said readers should refer to page 15 in the best practices study for information on testing accommodations for advanced ELLs.)

Lastly, Ms. Acosta recommends that New York state officials collect data on former ELLs who receive testing accommodations and those who don’t so that officials can report which accommodations are most effective for this group of students. She noted that research on the effectiveness of testing accommodations for ELLs or former ELLs is scant.

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