The office of the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Education has found that California’s education department and some school districts in the state aren’t providing test accommodations for English-language learners as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The auditors wrote in an October report that state education department officials didn’t explicitly concur with the auditors’ findings, but they described actions that have been or will be taken to correct some of the problems.
The federal auditors visited three districts to spot-check how requirements of the federal law were being implemented. The districts were the Fresno Unified, Lodi Unified and Pajaro Valley Unified school systems.
The investigators said in their report that the three districts didn’t have reliable data on how or if accommodations for English-language learners were being used in testing.
The state department of education allows schools to offer flexible settings, flexible schedules, translated directions, and glossaries as testing accommodations for English-language learners.
Auditors found that in six of the nine schools they visited, such students hadn’t used any accommodations for the state’s standardized testing. The tests are used to meet the accountability requirements of the NCLB law.
The federal investigators recommended that the California education department monitor the use of accommodations more rigorously across the state and make sure that districts distinguish in their reporting between accommodations provided to English-language learners and those given to students with disabilities.
They also encouraged the department to make every effort to complete and administer Spanish-language versions of assessments for English-language learners to take.
The fact that California hasn’t implemented standardized tests in Spanish as part of its accountability system is the subject of a lawsuit filed in June in state superior court in San Francisco. Eleven districts are parties to the lawsuit. (“State Testing of English-Learners Scrutinized,” June 15, 2005.)
A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2005 edition of Education Week