Voices from the Field: Making State Assessment Decisions for English Language Learners with Disabilities
This report describes current assessment and accommodation decision-making processes, test score use practices, and issues and challenges educators face in making appropriate decisions for ELLs with disabilities. Findings are based on online focus groups of 232 school and district practitioners in five states. Four major themes emerged; participants 1) questioned the validity of standardized tests, particularly state academic content assessments; 2) expressed confusion about federal assessment policies and their states’ exemption practices for assessment participation requirements; 3) believed that the IEP process served primarily to make decisions about accommodations on content assessments, but less so for state English language proficiency assessments and accommodations; and 4) described needs specific to ELLs with disabilities for support and guidance from school and state education leaders on assessment and accommodations including additional qualified staff and training, clear and consistent written assessment policies, and appropriate uses of state accountability test scores. Based on the focus group findings, the authors provide recommendations for state departments of education.