PARCC’s Common Math Tests to Be Translated Into Spanish

By Lesli A. Maxwell — September 25, 2013 2 min read
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The common math assessments under development by PARCC will be translated into Spanish and possibly other languages, but whether English-language learners will have access to non-English versions will depend on which state they live in.

The governing board of PARCC—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers—this afternoon unanimously approved a policy that will allow test designers to have the math assessment translated into Spanish and other languages that member states need. Several states in PARCC have laws and regulations that forbid the use of languages other than English to test students. But 8 of the 19 states in the consortium said they need a Spanish-language math assessment:

• Colorado (grades 3-11)

• Illinois (grades 3-11)

• Massachusetts (high school only)

• New Mexico (grades 3-11)

• New Jersey (grades 3-11)

• New York (grades 3-11)

• Ohio (grades 3-11)

• Rhode Island (grades 3-11)

New York, which offers several non-English content assessments, said it would need additional languages, as did Colorado, Illinois, and Ohio. Among those: Korean, Chinese, Haitian-Creole, and Russian.

Florida, whose future committment to PARCC and its tests is murky at best, was not on the list of states that said it would need translated math assessments. Home to one of the biggest populations of English-language learners in the country, the state currently provides content tests only in English.

Also absent from the list of PARCC states in need of Spanish translation is Arizona, another high-density ELL state where the law prohibits the use of languages other than English for assessment.

PARCC officials said they will not develop translated versions of the English/language arts tests, even though some states expressed interest. A group of ELL and assessment experts advised against doing so. New Mexico and Colorado officials, however, said they are exploring the possibility of designing Spanish literacy assessments.

In June, PARCC gave the green light to its first edition of testing supports for English-learners that include having test directions clarified in their native language by a test administrator for both the math and English/language arts assessments, although that is recommended only for ELLs with low levels of proficiency in English. Beginning ELLs can also have their oral answers transcribed to text on the PARCC math test. Written word-to-word translations from English to a student’s native language are recommended for ELLs with intermediate and advanced proficiency levels. And extended time will be available to all ELLs, regardless of proficiency.

PARCC officials left the decision on translations of the math test until now, after doing a full survey of what states would need. States that end up using translated PARCC math tests will share the costs associated with developing them.

Earlier this month, states in the Smarter Balanced testing group approved a series of language supports for English-learners, including complete Spanish translations of math items that will appear above the original items in English. Smarter Balanced member states with laws and regulations that restrict or ban languages other than English for instruction or assessment of ELLs can opt not to offer any translation options to its students.

Education Week Associate Editor Catherine Gewertz contributed to this report.

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