By this summer, as part of its LEP Partnership initiative, the U.S. Department of Education expects to publish several guides for states on how best to include English-language learners in testing.
The program was announced in July by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings as an effort to help states improve the testing of students with limited English proficiency, which has been a contentious issue in the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. The partnership invited state education officials to meetings in Washington in August and October.
Kathyrn M. Doherty, a special assistant to Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond J. Simon, said last week that she has been lining up researchers and other experts to write several guides that can be used by states. The guides will cost about $25,000 to produce.
The LEP Partnership will hold another meeting for state education officials in Washington this summer, and Ms. Doherty said that, by then, she expects three guides will have been published. One will provide recommendations on native-language assessments, another on “plain English” tests, and a third on how best to provide interpretation or translation at the testing site.
Ms. Doherty, who is a former research director for Education Week, said the department also is selecting a group of academics and other experts to write guidelines about what a high-quality English-language-proficiency test looks like.
Under the NCLB law, schools must include English-language learners in regular math and reading assessments—and count their scores for accountability purposes—after they have attended U.S. schools for at least one year. Those tests are given in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
In addition, schools must assess ELL students in their proficiency in the English language every year in grades K-12.
States have been required to create standards for English-language proficiency and new tests that align with those standards. The tests are also supposed to align with the regular academic-content standards of each state.
“States have been clamoring for guidance … on issues of English-language-proficiency standards and assessments,” Ms. Doherty said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2007 edition of Education Week