English-Language Learners

California Launches New ELL Assessment

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 27, 2007 1 min read
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California schools began this month to administer a new assessment in Spanish for English-language learners, but the test will not be used for accountability purposes under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Deb Sigman, the assessment director for the California Department of Education, said the state board of education would have to authorize the state to use a Spanish-language test to calculate adequate yearly progress for some English-language learners under the federal education law.

“It’s kind of up in the air because the No Child Left Behind Act will be reauthorized at some point,” she said. “We don’t know what that reauthorization will look like and what will be called for in terms of native-language assessments.”

Jan Chladek, the administrator for standardized assessment and reporting for the state education department, said the new test—called the Standards-based Test in Spanish—assesses students in reading, language arts, and mathematics and replaces an off-the-shelf test, Aprenda III, that is not aligned to California standards. The new test is being given only to English-language learners who have attended U.S. schools for less than a year or who are receiving instruction in Spanish. This spring, more than 102,000 students in grades 2, 3, and 4, are expected to take the test. Eventually, it will be phased in for students in grades 2-11.

Under the NCLB law, all states must test English-language learners in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English. California has an oral-skills test for all grades, but hasn’t yet developed a test that assesses the reading and writing skills of children in kindergarten and 1st grade.

Ms. Sigman said the state legislature, concerned about what it views as an added burden on children, twice has rejected bills that would permit the education department to create such a test.

The federal government has put special conditions on its grant money for English-language learners, said Cathy George, a consultant for English-learners for the state education department.

See Also

See other stories on education issues in California. See data on California’s public school system.

For background, previous stories, and Web links, read Assessment and English-Language Learners.

A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2007 edition of Education Week


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