A Review of “State assessment policy and practice for English language learners: a national perspective”

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [McMaster University]On: 17 November 2014, At: 09:03Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Language and EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rlae20</p><p>A Review of State assessment policyand practice for English languagelearners: a national perspectiveJoan Mulhern aa Tredyffrin/Easttown School District , Pennsylvania, PA, 19406,USAPublished online: 26 Feb 2009.</p><p>To cite this article: Joan Mulhern (2009) A Review of State assessment policy and practice forEnglish language learners: a national perspective, Language and Education, 23:1, 97-99, DOI:10.1080/09500780802152945</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500780802152945</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to orarising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rlae20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/09500780802152945http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500780802152945http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>Language and EducationVol. 23, No. 1, January 2009, 97102</p><p>BOOK REVIEWS</p><p>State assessment policy and practice for English language learners: a national perspec-tive, edited by C. Rivera and E. Collum, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006,xlvii + 449 pp., US$145.00, ISBN 0-8058-5568-8 (hbk); US$55.00, ISBN 0-8058-5569-6(pbk)</p><p>In 1994, Congress passed the Improving Americas Schools Act (IASA), which requiredstates to include English language learners (ELLs) in state assessments. Title I of IASAaddresses the education of language minority children, with Section 1111 directly per-taining to state assessment and accountability of ELLs. The book State assessment policyand practice for english language learners: a national perspective presents analyses ofassessment data for ELLs in all 50 states and Washington, DC, during the 19992000 and20002001 school years under IASA. The book is divided into an introduction and threedistinct studies, each of which focuses on a single aspect of state assessments for ELLs.</p><p>The introduction, by Rivera and Collum, traces the history of legislation on the inclusionof ELLs in state assessments. The authors argue that many state assessments have failed toinclude ELLs because of worries that linguistic and cultural barriers would inhibit the valid-ity of tests. Additionally, some policymakers have contended that ELLs should not be testedwith the same standards as native English speakers enrolled in the traditional curriculum be-cause ELLs are frequently enrolled in alternative curricula to develop their English abilities.Thus, ELLs have been excluded from state assessments because of fears that their scores willlower the overall scores of the state. The authors conclude that, only by measuring the per-formance of all students can achievement gaps be identified and addressed appropriately ininstruction, and only by including all students in state assessments is it possible to developa complete picture of the academic progress of states student populations (pp. xxxviixxxviii).</p><p>The first study, by Rivera, Collum, Willner and Sia, presents an analysis of the data onthe use of accommodations on state assessments for ELLs during the 20002001 schoolyear. They argue that because second language learners tend to process unit by unit, pieceby piece, focusing closely on each discrete element of language (p. 6), tests may suffer fromconstruct-irrelevant variance, in which tests inadvertently measure students language skills,rather than their knowledge of the content area. Thus, tests need to include accommodationsthat enable students to separate understanding of the subject matter from their proficiencyin English. The authors focus on eight research questions regarding accommodations forELLs. In their analysis they identify five major categories of accommodations provided forELLs: timing and scheduling, setting, presentation, response and alternate assessment. Theyalso note many gaps in states policies regarding accommodations for ELLs. These includethe aggregation of accommodations for ELLs with those for students with disabilities, alack of clarity regarding which accommodations were appropriate for ELLs and for whichcontent areas, and little information on qualifying criteria for receiving accommodation orthose responsible for deciding.</p><p>ISSN 0950-0782 print / ISSN 1747-7581 onlineDOI: 10.1080/09500780802152945http://www.informaworld.com</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>03 1</p><p>7 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>98 Book reviews</p><p>The presentation of this study is confusing at times and would be easier to decipher ifthe authors had organised their findings by using their eight research questions. Addition-ally, they spend several pages documenting previous studies that address the usefulness ofspecific accommodations to students, but do not incorporate those findings into their rec-ommendations or tie them to the taxonomy of accommodations they analysed. Despite this,the authors make a persuasive argument for the need of clear and comprehensive policieson the selection of ELL-responsive accommodations and for further research regarding theimportance of accommodations for ELLs.</p><p>The second study in the book focuses on the use of written and oral translations ofstate assessments for ELLs. Stansfield and Bowles highlight four key issues in providingtranslated tests to students. They first distinguish between translations, adaptations andalternative assessments for ELLs. Factors affecting decisions to translate, such as cost effi-ciency, target population and psychometric concerns regarding test validity, are scrutinised.Furthermore, the importance of the method of translation is considered, as is the format oftranslated tests. In a second section, the authors examine state policies regarding the use ofwritten translations, in which students receive a copy of the test in their home language, andsight translations, in which teachers or other translators read directions or content aloud instudents home language, translating them on the spot. A third section analyses the policiesof the 12 states that provide written translations of at least some content area tests. Finally,the authors make several noteworthy recommendations regarding the use of translated testsfor students, including the need for states to move away from sight translation, perhapsthrough the use of audiotaped versions of the test. The authors also recommend that stu-dents be allowed to respond in their native language, that school officials consider multiplefactors in deciding on the appropriateness of translated assessments for individual ELLsand that states use successive iterations of forward translation and revision by professionaltranslators to ensure the accuracy of translation.</p><p>This study pinpoints some of the most important issues regarding the testing of ELLs,particularly in regard to the languages used in translation. Perhaps the most salient pointis that in the 20002001 school year only three states provided written translations of anytests in languages other than Spanish, and only eight languages, including Spanish wereused in translation throughout the United States. In bringing this to light, the authors haveopened a door for further analysis of the needs of an incredibly diverse student population.</p><p>In the final study of the book, Thurlow, Albus, Liu and Rivera focus on states assessmentreports for the 19992000 school year. They find that only two states accounted for all ELLsin their test reporting. Gaps exist in reporting the total number of ELLs enrolled in the gradeassessed, the total number of ELLs tested in the grade assessed, the total number of ELLsnot tested in the grade assessed and the total number of ELLs tested and included in scorereports. Additionally, the authors find few differences in score reporting for ELLs betweenstates with the highest populations of ELLs and those with the lowest, and that few statesreport on alternate assessments. The authors recommend that states include participationand performance data for every student in every grade for every test, aggregated anddisaggregated by a variety of factors, and that each state recognise the unique challenges itfaces in reporting the scores of its ELL population.</p><p>This last recommendation seems to have implications much wider than just scorereporting, however. Although it is not addressed explicitly in either of the other two studies,it seems that one of the keys to assessing ELLs throughout the United States is recognisingthat their situations within each state vary according to percentage of the population asa whole and as language groups. Thus, assessment policies regarding ELLs need to beresponsive to the needs of this ever-changing population.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>03 1</p><p>7 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Language and Education 99</p><p>Rivera and Collums book illuminates the large gaps in state testing for ELLs and rightlypoints out that these gaps often leave states unaccountable for the educational welfare ofthese students. The authors provide many useful recommendations that states can incorpo-rate into their current practices to ensure that ELLs are tested fairly and accurately. However,although the authors attempt several times to address the changes in state assessments thathave occurred as a result of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, their data is no longer trulyrelevant. For example, No Child Left Behind requires that all states provide aggregated anddisaggregated data on all students for all tests. As a result, many more states have begun toprovide written translations of tests, and all provide clear provisions for accommodation.Thus, although the overall recommendations of the authors remain salient, many of theirconcerns regarding the assessment of ELLs have been addressed in the years since their datawere collected. Nevertheless, it seems important that researchers apply Rivera and Collumsmethods of analysis to current policies in order to gain a more updated understanding ofthe challenges faced by ELLs in state assessments.</p><p>Joan MulhernTredyffrin/Easttown School District, Pennsylvania</p><p>PA 19406, USAEmail: Mulhern2@dolphin.upenn.edu</p><p>C 2009, Joan Mulhern</p><p>The politics of second language writing: in search of a promised land, edited by PaulKei Matsuda, Christina Ortmeier-Hooper and Xiaoye You, West Lafeyette, Parlor Press,2007, 329 pp., US$30.00, ISBN 1-932559-11-6 (pbk)</p><p>The politics of second language writing: in search of a promised land brings together16 original chapters addressing institutional policies, classroom practices and politics sur-rounding the teaching of writing to ESL students. The politics of the title pertain to thoseof placement, assessment, course, content, class size, budget, staffing, teacher preparationand relationships between instructors and supervisors and between colleagues. Togetherthe contributors confirm that though the field has encountered a radical growth, the pathto that evolution has not been easy. This is the fourth edited volume emerging out of theSymposium on second language writing. While maintaining the spirit of the symposium to promote the disciplinary status of this body of scholarship this collection is nonethelessunique in at least two ways. First, it addresses ESL writing issues in middle schools andhigh schools, in addition to those in higher education. These contexts, not covered in previ-ous volumes, continue to remain under-researched. Second, adopting politics as its centraltheme, the issues dealt in the book seem to have little relevance to classroom practices atfirst glance, but they are relevant to both administrators and teachers.</p><p>This volume is organised into five sections, K-12 levels, writing support programmes inhigher education, English for academic and professional purposes, assessment of collegewriting and politics of the professions. Section 1, featuring two chapters, addresses theconcerns about writing development of middle school and high school students. Fu andMatoush report some findings from a longitudinal study conducted in New York China-towns middle school. Identifying four transitional stages in students progression fromtheir first to the second language, the study concludes that instead of viewing such phasesas broken or deficient, teachers need to view them as developmental. Villalva presents thewriting experiences of high school seniors who are also generation 1.5 learners, engaged in</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>03 1</p><p>7 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li></ul>

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