The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.
ASSESSMENT OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS WITH DISABILITIES
COUNCIL OF CHIEF STATE SCHOOL OFFICERS
Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts, President
Chris Minnich, Executive Director
Assessing Special Education Students State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (ASES SCASS)
English Language Learners State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (ELL SCASS)
Shyyan, V., Christensen, L.., Touchette, B., Lightborne,L., Gholson, M., and Burton, K. (2013). Accommodations manual: How to select, administer, and evaluate use of accommodations for instruction and assessment English language learners with disabilities (1st ed.). Washington, DC: Assessing Special Education Students and English Language Learners State Collaboratives on Assessment and Student Standards, Council of Chief State School Officers.
Council of Chief State School Officers
Tool 13: Accommodations Journal for Teachers…………………………………………….
Tool 14: Identifying Roles and Responsibilities………………………………………………
Tool 15: Questions to Guide Evaluation at the School or District Level…………….
[State Name Department of Education] Contacts
[Address and Contact Info. for Your State’s Department of Education]
For ELLs with Disabilities Taking English Language Proficiency Assessments
ELL Policies—[Name and title of person]
[Phone number and email of person]
ELL Accommodations—[Name and title of person]
[Phone number and email of person]
For ELLs with Disabilities Taking Content Assessments
ELL Policies—[Name and title of person]
[Phone number and email of person]
ELL Accommodations—[Name and title of person]
[Phone number and email of person]
Note to States The Council of Chief State School Officers’ Accommodations Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of English Language Learners with Disabilities was developed to establish guidelines for states to use for the selection, administration, and evaluation of accommodations for instruction and assessment of English language learners with disabilities. This manual should be customized by states to reflect current state level policies and practices for English language learners with disabilities.
This manual is intended to be a companion to the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Accommodations Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities (Christensen, Carver, VanDeZande, & Lazarus, 2011) and Accommodations Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of English Language Learners (Christensen, Shyyan, Schuster, Mahaley, & Saez, 2012).
This manual serves states in several ways. For states that are part of a Race to the Top (RTTT) assessment consortium developing a general assessment based on Common Core State Standards, this manual serves as an extension of the accommodations manual developed by the consortium. This manual does not establish specific accommodations policies, but rather provides a decision-making process that can be used for effective accommodations selection. For states that are not in a consortium, this manual may serve as the basis for the states’ accommodations policy manual and can be customized as needed.
New policy and implementation issues with regard to accommodations for English language learners with disabilities underscore the need for states to update accommodations policies.
Throughout this edition of the Accommodations Manual,attention has been given to addressing issues related to providing accommodations on technology-based platforms. Often, these issues have been marked with the symbol of a computer mouse.
Accommodations Manual: How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of English Language Learners with Disabilities represents the best thinking up to the point of publication. We continue to learn more about the effective education of English language learners with disabilities every day, and we expect these materials to evolve and improve every year.
INTRODUCTION The Accommodations Manual:How to Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of English Language Learners with Disabilities presents a five-step process for general, English as a second language (ESL)/bilingual, and special education teachers, administrators, and assessment staff to use in selecting, administering, and evaluating the effectiveness of the use of content instructional and assessment accommodations by English language learners with disabilities.
The guidance in this manual applies to English language learners with disabilities who participate in large-scale content assessments and the instruction they receive. This document does not address directly English language proficiency accommodation policies and practices. Rather, this manual focuses on accommodations for content instruction and the statewide content assessments. The five steps highlighted in this manual are:
Expect English language learners with disabilities to achieve grade-level academic content standards.
Learn about accommodations for instruction and assessment.
Select accommodations for instruction and assessment of individual students.
Administer accommodations during instruction and assessment.
Students with disabilities are students who are eligible to receive services identified through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504.
English language learners (ELLs), also referred to as Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, are students whose native language is not English and who do not yet possess sufficient English language proficiency to fully access curriculum that is in English.
English language learners with disabilities (ELLs with disabilities) are students whose native language is not English, who do not yet possess sufficient English language proficiency to fully access content that is in English, and who have disabilities as identified through IDEA or Section 504.
EXPECT ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS WITH DISABILITIES TO ACHIEVE GRADE-LEVEL ACADEMIC CONTENT STANDARDS Education is a basic right for all children in the United States, including ELLs with disabilities. With the focus of legislation aimed at accountability and the inclusion of all students comes the drive to ensure equal access to grade-level content standards. Academic content standards are educational targets outlining what students are expected to learn at each grade level. Teachers ensure that students work toward grade-level content standards by using a range of instructional strategies based on the varied strengths and needs of students. For some ELLs with disabilities, accommodations are provided during instruction and assessments to help promote equal access to grade-level content.
Instructional and assessment decisions for ELLs with disabilities should be made by a team of individuals who are familiar with all characteristics and needs of these students. The English language learner/individualized education program or English language learner/504 Plan team (ELL/IEP or ELL/504 Plan Team) is responsible for developing, implementing, and improving accommodation practices for ELLs with disabilities. The state decision makers who assembled the ELL/IEP or ELL/504 Plan Team coordinated accommodation practices in instruction and assessment. The following are the types of accommodations specified in their state policies:
special education teachers or 504 Plan committee representatives
language educators and facilitators (ESL/bilingual teacher(s), another ESL/bilingual/migrant teacher or ELL administrator, language acquisition specialist, interpreter)
general education teachers (classroom/content teacher(s))
first/native language special education practitioners
school administrators (principal, school/district official(s))
To accomplish the goal of equal access in education,
every ELL/IEP or ELL/504 Plan Team member must be familiar with content standards and accountability systems at the state and district level;
every ELL/IEP or ELL/504 Plan Team member must know where to locate standards and updates; and
all general, special, and language educators, as well as other educational stakeholders must collaborate for successful student access.
All ELLs with disabilities can work toward grade-level academic content standards and most of these students will be able to achieve these standards when the following three conditions are met:
1. Instruction is provided by teachers who are qualified to teach in the content areas addressed by state standards and who know how to differentiate instruction for diverse learners.
2. Education plans for ELLs with disabilities are developed to ensure the provision of specialized instruction (e.g., specific reading skills, strategies for “learning how to learn”).
3. Appropriate accommodations are provided to help students access grade-level content.
Common Core Standards (CCS) and common assessments across states that are based on those standards present an unprecedented opportunity for educators to accomplish the goal of including all ELLs with disabilities in grade-level content.
Federal and State Laws and Legal Cases Requiring Participation by English Language Learners with Disabilities Several important laws (often based on legal cases) require the participation of ELLs with disabilities in standards-based instruction and assessment initiatives. Some of these laws address solely students with disabilities; others regulate educational policies and practices exclusively for ELLs. Both types of laws, however, should be considered when it comes to instruction and assessment of ELLs with disabilities.
Federal laws that outline provisions for students with disabilities and ELLs include the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). Although these laws do not offer provisions for ELLs with disabilities, they have implications for this group by addressing either students with disabilities or ELLs.
ESEA on Students with Disabilities Stronger accountability for educational achievement results is one of the four basic education reform principles contained in the current version of ESEA. This law complements the provisions in mandating public accountability at the school, district, and state levels for all students with disabilities. ESEA explicitly calls for the participation in such assessments of all students [Sec. 1111 (3) (C) (i)]. (The term ‘such assessments’ refers to a set of high-quality, yearly student academic assessments.) It also requires that these assessments provide for the reasonable adaptations and accommodations for students with disabilities—as defined under Section 602(3) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—necessary to measure the academic achievement of such students relative to State academic content and State student academic achievement standards [Sec. 1111 (3) (C)(ii)].
The April 2007 regulations on alternate assessments based on modified achievement standards included the following statements about accommodations:
“…a State’s, or in the case of district-wide assessments, an LEA’s guidelines must require each child to be validly assessed and must identify, for each assessment, any accommodations that would result in an invalid score. Consistent with Title I…a student taking an assessment with an accommodation that invalidates the score would not be reported as a participant under the IDEA.” (U.S. Department of Education, 2007, p. 17750)
One of the basic reform principles of ESEA is stronger accountability for educational achievement results for all students. Through this federal legislation, in addition to other state and local district initiatives, assessments aimed at increasing accountability provide important information with regard to:
how successful schools are including all students in standards-based education,
how well students are achieving standards, and
what needs to be improved upon for specific groups of students.
Several critical elements in ESEA hold schools accountable for educational results:
Academic content standards (what students should learn) and academic achievement standards (how well students should learn the content) form the basis of state accountability systems.
State assessments are the mechanism for checking whether schools have been successful in helping students attain the knowledge and skills defined by the content standards.
States must provide assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics for all students, including students with disabilities, in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
States must also provide science assessments in at least one grade in each of three grade spans (3-5, 6-9, 10-12) each year.
School, district, and state accountability is based on measuring success in educating all of its students and determining what needs to be improved for specific groups of students.
The accountability system is defined in terms of state established accountability goals for ESEA that measure the improvement in achieving standards for all students and designated groups each year.
Schools, districts, and states are held accountable for improvements on an annual basis by public reporting and ultimately through consequences if goals are not achieved.
ESEA on ELLs Title III of the ESEA mandates that all ELLs receive quality instruction for learning both English and grade-level academic content (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). According to ESEA, ELLs are required to participate in statewide assessments that measure students’ English language and academic progress. States are allowed to choose flexible programs of instruction and assessment tools in order to increase accountability for ELLs’ academic achievement.
ESEA requires that states develop standards for English language proficiency in the context of each state’s Academic Content Standards. Schools and districts must ensure ELLs’ participation in their state’s accountability system and provide for:
the inclusion of limited English proficient students, who shall be assessed in a valid and reliable manner and provided reasonable accommodations on assessments administered to such students under this paragraph, including, to the extent practicable, assessments in the language and form most likely to yield accurate data on what such students know and can do in academic content areas, until such students have achieved English language proficiency (U.S. Department of Education, 2002, p. 27).
The following are some other ESEA provisions for ELLs:
all ELL students’ English language proficiency must be tested at least once a year;
all ELLs have to take state academic achievement tests in language arts and math, except that ELL students who have been in the U.S. for less than one year do not have to take the language arts test for that first year; if available from the state, ELL students can take these language arts and math tests in their native languages;
ELL students should be assessed in a valid and reliable manner and provided reasonable accommodations; (Title I, 115 STAT. 1451)
students may be assessed in their native language, if necessary, for three years with or without additional accommodations. After that time, all assessments must be conducted in English unless the school district determines, on a case-by-case basis, that assessments in the student’s language would likely yield more accurate and reliable information for a period not to exceed two additional years; (Title I, 115 STAT. 1451)
curricula must be demonstrated to be effective; language instruction curricula used to teach ELL children are to be tied to scientifically based research and demonstrated to be effective;
local entities have the flexibility to choose the method of instruction to teach ELLs;
states must establish standards and objectives for raising the level of English proficiency that are derived from the four recognized domains of speaking, listening, reading and writing, and that are aligned with achievement of the challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards. (Title III, 115 Stat. 1694)
Instructional and assessment accommodations, therefore, are incorporated in the instructional process for ELLs to facilitate their education and measure their performance adequately by leveling the playing field.
State Flexibility Waivers Currently, states may apply for flexibility waivers for the Title I accountability requirements of ESEA. States must continue, however, to report on the participation and performance of all subgroups, including ELLs. For additional information on flexibility waivers, please visit http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/index.html.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004
IDEA specifically governs services provided to students with disabilities. Accountability at the individual level is provided through IEPs developed on the basis of each child’s unique needs. IDEA requires the participation of students with disabilities in state and district-wide assessments. Specific IDEA requirements include:
Children with disabilities are included in general state and district-wide assessment programs, with appropriate accommodations, where necessary [Sec. 612 (a) (16) (A)]. The term ‘individualized education program’ or ‘IEP’ means a written statement for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in accordance with this section and that includes…a statement of any individual modifications in the administration of state or district-wide assessments of student achievement that are needed in order for the child to participate in such assessment; and if the IEP Team determines that the child will not participate in a particular state or district-wide assessment of student achievement (or part of such an assessment), a statement of why that assessment is not appropriate for the child; and how the child will be assessed [Sec. 614 (d) (1) (A) (V) and VI)].
Current efforts are underway to develop alternate assessments of English language proficiency. For the small group of students with significant cognitive disabilities who are also English language learners, these assessments will be an important tool to measure their progress in learning English.
Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act Section 504 provides individuals with disabilities with certain rights and protects individuals with disabilities against discrimination from federally funded programs and activities. Section 504 states that…
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any executive agency…
In school settings, 504 legislation guarantees and protects students with disabilities who may not otherwise have an IEP, but are still considered an individual with disabilities. The definition of a student with disabilities is much broader under 504 than it is under IDEA. An important part of the 504 plans developed by schools for students with disabilities are often the lists of accommodations that the student can utilize on assessments.
Rights of ELLs with disabilities for equitable inclusion in instruction and assessment processes are also outlined in a number of ELL-related federal laws and regulations as well as certain legal decisions in conjunction with the Office of Civil Rights. These educational protections and supports for ELLs include the Elementary and Secondary Educational Act (ESEA) as well as the Supreme Court Cases Lau v. Nichols (1974) and Castañeda v. Pickard (1981).
Lau v. Nichols (1974)
The Office of Civil Rights established a policy for the provision of equal educational opportunities for ELLs. This policy was described in a memorandum in 1970:
Where the inability to speak and understand the English language excludes national origin minority group children from effective participation in the educational program offered by a school district, the district must take affirmative steps to rectify the language deficiency in order to open its instructional program to these students.
This memorandum does not tell districts what steps they must take to ensure the equal opportunities for ELLs. However, it does state that the law is violated if:
students are excluded from effective participation in school because of their inability to speak and understand the language of instruction;
national origin minority students are inappropriately assigned to special education classes because of their lack of English skills;
programs for students whose English is less than proficient are not designed to teach them English as soon as possible, or if these programs operate as a dead end track; or
parents whose English is limited do not receive school notices or other information in a language they can understand.
This law was tested in the Supreme Court Case, Lau v. Nichols. In 1974, the Supreme Court upheld this law, supporting the premise that if students cannot understand the language of instruction, they do not have access to an equal opportunity education. The Supreme Court said the following:
There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.
All students in the United States, regardless of native language, have the right to a quality education. An equal education is only possible when students are able to understand the language of instruction.
Castañeda v. Pickard (1981)
On June 23, 1981, the Fifth Circuit Court issued a decision that is the seminal post-Lau decision concerning education of language minority students. The case established a three-part test to evaluate the adequacy of a district’s program for ELL students:
Is the program based on an educational theory recognized as sound by some experts in the field or is considered by experts as a legitimate experimental strategy?
Are the programs and practices, including resources and personnel, reasonably calculated to implement this theory effectively?
Does the school district evaluate its programs and make adjustments where needed to ensure language barriers are actually being overcome?
Including All ELLs with Disabilities in State Accountability Assessments
Federal and most state laws require that all ELLs with disabilities be administered assessments intended to hold schools accountable for the academic performance of students. ELL/IEP or ELL/504 Plan Team members must actively engage in a planning process that addresses:
assurance of the provision of accommodations to facilitate student access to grade-level instruction and state assessments,
use of alternate assessments to assess the achievement of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and
use of different assessment formats to assess the achievement of beginner ELLs; these assessments are tailored specifically for ELLs at varying developmental, language proficiency, and academic levels and are aligned with content and achievement standards, curriculum, and instruction.