The U. S. Department of Education has supported work on six technical assistance projects to help States improve assessments for limited English proficient (LEP) students. These projects were recommended by States at the LEP Partnership meeting in Washington D.C. in October 2006. The projects include:
- A Framework for Developing High Quality English Language Proficiency Standards and Assessments
- A Guide for Sight Translation of Assessments
- A Guide for Native Language Assessments
- A Guide for Plain English/Linguistic Modifications
- A Guide to Conducting a Title I/Title III Assessment Linking Study
- A Handbook of Best Practices in Test Accommodations and State Assessment Policies for English Language Learners (ELLs)
Below are descriptions of each of these projects.
A Framework for Developing High Quality English Language Proficiency Standards and Assessments Draft Framework MSWord
States have overwhelmingly requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Education on how to evaluate technical quality, validity, and alignment of English language proficiency (ELP) standards to ELP assessments, and alignment of ELP standards and assessments to the achievement of challenging content standards in the core subject areas required to be assessed under NCLB. This project includes guidelines that lay out standards of practice for ELP standards and assessments and explore a variety of ways States can ensure that ELP standards and assessments are aligned with the achievement of challenging content standards under Title I.
The States represented at the LEP Partnership meeting requested a guide for sight translation for use by States and districts. This document covers a number of topics, including how to select a qualified interpreter who can carry out the sight translation, the guidance that should be provided to the interpreter, and a sample confidentiality agreement. The guide also includes a template for information that could be given directly to an interpreter, which will cover the interpreter's obligations to the district, how to prepare for the test administration, the ethics of sight translation in a testing situation, how to respond to student questions, dos and don'ts, and a sight translator report form.
At the LEP Partnership breakout sessions on native language assessment, we learned that some States were already using native language versions of their assessments. Those States that were not using native language versions of their assessments wanted to learn from the experiences of other States. This document provides a practical, user-friendly guide to written native language assessments. The guide is organized around topics and concerns surrounding native language assessments, such as:
- Why translate a test to a student's native language?
- What are the different kinds of native language assessments?
- What States have the most experience in using native language assessments?
- What has been learned from the experience of States using native language assessments?
- What additional costs are involved for a State to use native language assessments?
- When do the numbers justify the cost?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a bilingual test booklet or a separate monolingual test booklet?
- Which content areas are most amenable to native language assessments?
- What effect can native language assessment have on reliability, validity, and score comparability?
- Does the use of a native language assessment create problems for obtaining federal approval during the peer review process?
- How can a State show that a translated assessment is comparable to an English version?
- What affect does a decision to create a native language assessment have on the test development process?
This project presents both the conceptual and research framework, as well as practical guidelines, to help States navigate the stages of development, implementation, and evaluation of linguistic modifications to large-scale assessments. The guidelines focus on plain English as a viable assessment strategy for States. Relative to other strategies, such as portfolios and native language translations, plain English lends itself more readily to standardization and broader application across language groups; thus, there are both cost benefits and practical benefits to States. The guide covers:
Rationale/Principles and Research on Linguistic Modifications
What is Plain English?
This provides State department staff, test developers, and policy makers with (a) a definition of plain/simplified English, (b) a synthesis of existing research relevant to this assessment strategy, and (c) guidelines/parameters for interpreting and using the research findings.
Applications to State Assessments
Is Plain/Simplified English a Viable Assessment Strategy for My State?
This provides State department staff and policy makers with a framework for examining State policies and practices to determine the appropriateness of Plain/Simplified English as an assessment strategy within a State's assessment and accountability system.
Instruction and Guidelines
How To Develop a Plain/Simplified English Assessment
This provides State department and test developers with a "how to" guide for developing Plain/Simplified English assessments based on research and theory. More specifically, information is provided about item types and content to which this strategy is most amenable, example items with annotations, and other relevant ancillary information (e.g., formatting) to help States and their test contractors develop Plain/Simplified English assessments.
A number of States requested the LEP Partnership explore whether and how State assessments for LEP students might be able to measure both ELP standards and content standards in reading and mathematics with a single assessment instrument. As a first step in such an exploratory effort, the group proposed work to address the following questions:
- Can ELP and English/language arts assessment results inform each other at the student and program level?
- Can we develop a "bridge" between the two by:
- Linking the two at joint proficiency or other points on each scale;
- Developing growth trajectories across the two for accountability purposes; and
- Modifying ELP assessments to measure reading/language arts content?
This project reviews existing Title I/Title III linking studies and provides a step-by-step approach on how to design, implement, and interpret information from a dual testing program to increase the efficiency and validity of LEP testing.
States represented at the LEP Partnership meeting agreed that it would be beneficial to collaborate in the refinement of appropriate test accommodations for ELLs and develop a handbook that States could use to refine and update State policies. The project team worked with a panel of State and district Title I and Title III Directors and technical experts to review current State inclusion and accommodation policies, refine the number of accommodations that States might include in their policies, and determine which accommodations would most benefit students depending on their level of English language proficiency.