July 27, 2006
July 27, 2006
Dear Chief State School Officer:
I am writing to announce a new U.S. Department of Education initiative -- the LEP Partnership. In order to design instruction better and improve academic performance for the Nation's more than 5 million limited English proficient (LEP) students, educators need to understand what these students know and don't know, and need to build knowledge and develop strategies and tests to maximize the participation of LEP students in the academic life of our schools.
Our ability to measure performance accurately is a key factor in improving instruction and closing the achievement gap for those students. The LEP Partnership is intended to support your efforts to develop and implement improved test accommodations and content assessments in reading and mathematics designed for limited English proficient students.
Through the LEP Partnership, the Department will provide technical assistance and support to help improve assessments and accommodations for LEP students. One area of technical assistance will focus on the approximately 20 States that submitted evidence related to reading and mathematics assessments designed for LEP students as part of the Department's 2005-06 peer reviews of State assessment systems under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). In most cases, States that submitted evidence on these assessments need to address issues identified by the peer reviewers in order for the assessments to be considered for full approval under NCLB. We want to help these States continue their work to develop valid, reliable, and appropriate accommodations and assessments for LEP students that will qualify for full approval under NCLB. Through the Partnership, these States would agree to a plan, negotiated with the Department, for the development, improvement, and implementation of LEP content assessments and accommodations in time for the 2006-07 administration of State reading and mathematics assessments.
The Department will also sponsor opportunities for all States to participate in forums on best practices in assessment and instruction for LEP students, as well as provide participating States with access to technical assistance. The Department intends to disseminate across all States information on the practices, policy recommendations, assessment instruments, and tested accommodation practices that grow out of the work of the LEP Partnership.
To begin the Partnership, the Department will be inviting teams from the States that submitted evidence on LEP assessments -- including assessment directors, accountability directors, and Title III/LEP/instruction policymakers -- to attend a meeting in Washington, D.C., on August 28 and 29. At that meeting, the State teams will meet with Department officials and experts to develop State-specific plans and a timeline for improving LEP assessments in reading and mathematics for the 2006-07 school year and beyond.
As part of the Partnership, the Department will also host a two-day meeting on October 28 and 29, in Washington, D.C., for all States. States will be invited to bring key staff involved in the State assessment and accountability effort for LEP students. The Department will provide State teams with opportunities to hear from and interact with some of the nation's top researchers about the very latest in research and practice on assessment and instruction for LEP students. Additional details about the agenda and location for both meetings will be forthcoming.
The Department plans to support other technical assistance efforts focused on the improvement of assessments for all students. Those plans are still in development, based on peer review findings and State requests for assistance. Our intent is to provide targeted and intensive assistance in the following areas: assessments for students with disabilities, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities; alignment of assessments with standards; technical quality; and achievement standards. If you have other specific areas on which you believe the Department should focus assistance, I would appreciate hearing from you.
The Department strongly supports ensuring that LEP students are included and visible in our school accountability systems. We believe this will improve instruction and achievement outcomes. At the same time, we recognize that developing high-quality and appropriate assessments and accommodations for LEP students is a complex and challenging issue for States. We hope that you will be willing to work with the Department on this issue so that all students -- including limited English proficient students -- can reach proficiency by 2013-14.